Each year, thousands of substance abusers pay the ultimate, tragic price for their enslavement to drugs and alcohol: death. Recent reports indicate that drug-related deaths now exceed deaths caused by traffic accidents, a rather large and notable shift that many attribute to the nation’s increasing addiction to prescription substances.
In addition, those who chronically abuse substances like heroin, cocaine, alcohol and other drugs face the risk of related physical illnesses, including liver disease, heart failure, kidney failure, pneumonia and more which are caused directly or indirectly by drug and/or alcohol use.
Why Substance Abuse?
Why does a person keep using drugs or drinking alcohol even though they are suffering and manifesting physical consequences associated with their habits? The answer is found, basically, in the meaning of the word addiction. As stated by the National Instititues of Health,
“Drug addiction is the compulsive use of a substance, despite its negative or dangerous effects.”
By the very nature and definition of addiction, a person compulsively uses drugs and/or alcohol despite personal consequences, negative repercussions and other dangers of greater or lesser degrees.
Drug and alcohol-using individuals may habitually and compulsively abuse substances a means of coping with the very physical and emotional problems created by substance abuse. In other words, the drug or alcohol is deemed a solution to many or all problems and, yet, the more a person continues on a drug-using path, problems become magnified and seem to require more drugs as a “solution.”
It isn’t always easy to recognize a situation of drug addiction or alcohol abuse. Further, the concepts of “drug dependency” and “addiction” are often confused or the words used interchangeably, and alcohol use in social settings can enable a destructive habit to be camouflaged or hidden for up to several months.
Some of the initial warning signs which may indicate the presence of a substance abuse problem are:
- Major attitude shifts
- Priority shifts
- Mood swings; emotional instability
- Changes in physical appearance
- A haggard or unkempt physical state
Substance Abuse Deaths in the US
According to current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths caused by drug overdose became the number one cause of death among 25 to 64- year-olds in 2010. Further, in 2011, about 2.5 million Americans visited emergency rooms across the US for life-threatening situations pertaining to misuse of prescriptions or excessive use of substances.
Snapshot of Important Drug Overdose Facts
- Since 1992, drug overdoses have been steadily on the rise in the US. According to the CDC, between 1999 and 2010, the number of overdose deaths shot up 102%.
- Of the 20,000+ prescription drug overdose deaths that occurred in the US in 2010, about 75% were linked to narcotic opioid painkillers (including Vicodin, OxyContin, etc.)
- From 2004 to 2005, roughly 70,000 children were admitted to emergency rooms for pharmaceutical overdoses.
The CDC also notes that the cost of opioid prescription drug abuse, which is one aspect of our nation’s addiction problem, accounts for roughly $55 billion in lost productivity, healthcare and criminal justice system costs.
Breaking the Cycle of Addiction
Without effective treatment, substance abuse inevitably leads to eventual criminal activity, imprisonment or death. Preventative action, early detection and treatment can act as powerful interventional steps in breaking the cycle of addiction.
To get help for yourself or a loved one, speak to a counselor today by calling 1-888-824-0448.