I have long been concerned about the amount of substance abuse in the United States. The legalization of drugs such as marijuana in several states (including my own), although in small quantities, has, in my opinion, served to legitimize and normalize their use. Even though substance abuse has never been a specialty area of mine, as a psychologist in private practice I routinely see clients who, in addition to other disorders, abuse or are dependent on alcohol and/or drugs (“dual diagnoses”).
Obviously, this is a huge, multi-faceted topic. In this blog, I just want to address a few aspects of it
People use and abuse substances for a range of reasons, including to self-medicate, recreate, “party,” feel confident or uninhibited in social situations, expand consciousness, etc. The adverse health and social conditions associated with substance abuse/dependence are rampant. Prime examples involve major physical disorders and overdosing, teen pregnancy, family disruptions, domestic violence, child abuse, job/school absenteeism and loss of productivity, financial problems, and many types of crime.
Here is a miniscule sample of recent data that reflects the prevalence of U.S. substance abuse:
- Nearly 30% of American adults drink at levels that put them at risk for alcohol dependence and for alcohol-related problems.
- The earlier in life that a person begins drinking, the greater the risk of developing alcoholism. Currently, about 70% of underage American youths have used alcohol, with over two million between ages 12-20 regarded as heavy drinkers and at least five million being binge drinkers.
- In a survey of over 6500 employees at 16 workplaces, representing a range of industries, nearly 25% of upper-level managers reported drinking during work hours in the prior month.
- Nearly half of high-school seniors and 20% of 8th graders used at least one illicit drug at some point during their teens.
- Over half of all people arrested in the U.S., including for major felonies, tested positively for using illicit drugs.
- Deaths from drug overdosing rose for the 11th consecutive year.
I’m afraid that since alcohol and drug use/abuse are so widespread in our culture, we are becoming insidiously numb to their highly destructive impact on all of us.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism www.niaaa.nih.gov
American Council on Alcoholism www.aca.usa.org
National Institute on Drug Abuse www.drugabuse.gov
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov