Drug addiction / abuse is considered as one of the most usual public health concerns in the US. Based on records, more than twenty million Americans are known as former and current drug abusers. Drug addiction is also the most common reasons why many citizens are involved vehicular accidents, incarcerations, employment problems and financial burdens.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIDA has declared that over eighteen billion dollars is wasted annually due to the effects of poor health and productivity and drug addiction plays a crucial role in this scenario. What is even worse is that drug addiction is also the most common causes of social problems which include domestic violence, family breakdown, vehicular accidents, child abuse, loss of employment, education problem, etc.

Currently, the United States is doing ways to fight off drug addiction and it is obvious to note that the country has many hindrances to consider to winning the battle against drug addiction. Such hurdles or hindrances usually include access to appropriate care, socio-economic inequality, racial inequality and congested prisons with high levels of drug use. In the past twenty-five years, the rates of drug in the US remained stable despite the intensifying effort of the US authorities to eradicate drug trafficking and use. In the country, carrying prohibited drugs (for sale or personal use) is considered as a federal crime and punishment can be extremely severe.

Facts and Figures on Drug Abuse in the US

Each year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health is conducted in the US to determine the existing trend of drug use. Aside from drugs, this survey also assesses tobacco and alcohol dependence of Americans older than twelve years. The authority that conducts this annual survey is known as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMSHA and more than 67,000 Americans are surveyed and assessed. The survey has the following facts and figures for the year 2010:

  • 6 million Americans over 12 years old were previous or current drug users.
  • 6 Americans over 18 years old are users of illicit drugs.
  • 4 million Americans are users of Marijuana which is considered as the most commonly used prohibited drug.
  • 5 million Americans are cocaine users.
  • 2 million Americans are users of hallucinogen drugs with 700,000 of which are users of ecstasy.
  • In 2010, 7 million people in the country made use of prescription drugs which weren’t used for medical purposes.
  • A decrease in the number of methamphetamine use was reported in the past month. The reported number was 353,000.
  • 5 percent of all drug users in the country are unemployed, 8.4 percent are full time employees or workers and 11.2 percent are part time workers. This simply shows that 65.5 percent of the country’s total drug users are employed and working at some capacity.
  • 5 million people in the country are known to be driving cars and other types of vehicles even when they are under the influence of drugs.

SAMSHA said that about 8.9 million Americans are suffering from co-occurring mental health issue as well as substance abuse issue. Of this figure, 55 percent of which has been reported to not getting any proper treatment so as to cure the condition.

Legal Drugs or Prescription Drugs

Drugs can be legally used if they are prescribed by a licensed doctor and to be used for medical purposes. However, many Americans become addicted to prescription drugs simply because they are not used to treat certain illnesses. Thus, the Federal Government has announced that Prescription drug abuse has literally become one of the country’s menacing problems. According to statistics, about 20 percent of the country’s population is using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.

Prescription opiates (vicodin and oxycodone) happens to be the most common type of abused prescription drugs in the country. In 2010, vicodin was prescribed in the US 130 million times. Basically, this kind of drug is used to treat extreme pain. On the other hand, the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen is commonly used as analgesic or pain reliever but it can be very addicting as well.

Another type of addicting prescription drug is oxycodone. It is also used as a form of analgesic or pain reliever. This drug also lives in the country by the name of coalminers’ cocaine or hillbilly heroin because of its massive use in the country’s poor regions. It is also taken a substitute for heroin. Many young and first time users believe that oxycodone is also much safer than heroin. When taken without proper supervision, this drug can be very addictive and dangerous.

Treatment Problems and Incarceration

In the US, there is a problem with treatment gaps as far as treating drug addiction is concerned. This means that people who are struggling with addiction find it hard to get access to treatment services and facilities and this proves to be true when they don’t have private health insurance. With this in mind, sort-term or limited treatments are obvious. Relapse is also possible.

Due to the untreated problem on drug addiction, over two million people in the country are incarcerated with more than 25 percent of which is due to drug offenses. Based on surveys, people who were incarcerated due to drug offenses came from communities that struggle with the lack of services that aim to treat drug abuse or addiction. This has brought out the strategy which was known as the War on Drugs. This particular strategy was introduced on the United States in the 1970s to help in the reduction of drug abuse cases and other forms of drug-related crimes.

Prior to the introduction of this strategy, certain regions in the country have successfully reduced problems on drug trafficking. Unfortunately, this has also become the reason why the country’s incarceration rates of drug abusers as a way to deal with and overcome substance abuse issues. In short, this strategy has not been effective enough to successfully reduce drug addiction rates in the country. The US has actually seen the greatest increase in number of people who were arrested due to drug offenses. It has actually tripled in the last 25 years.