Published On: Thu, Dec 10th, 2015

How Illicit Drug Use Has Grown In America Over The Past 44 Years

“America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse,” said Richard Nixon on June 17, 1971. “In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”

This official statement launched the famous “war on drugs.”

Unfortunately, the war has not been won four decades later. This failure has not been due to lack of effort. Law enforcement agencies have tried to break through every link of the drug chain. They have worked to stop or reduce drug production. They have worked to break up distribution networks. And they have tried to discourage users through awareness campaigns.

If anything, the illicit drug trade has only become more widespread across the nation. In total, it is estimated that the government has spent $1 trillion since the time Nixon declared war on public enemy number one.

It has only spiraled out of control, with no end in sight.

News.mic offers a good summary of why the success rate has been less that 1%:

“The government can’t keep up the gigantic and fast-paced black market for drugs in the U.S. Even when law enforcement apprehends one end of the drug supply-chain, another drug gang or cartel will just step in and take over.”

According to a decade long study, from 2000 to 2010, American consumers spent $109 on four drugs alone: cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and meth.

Trends and Statistics on Drug Abuse

Although America consists only 4% of the world’s population; it consumes two thirds of the illegal drugs worldwide. It’s estimated that 230 million people use drugs across the world, and America makes up about 20 million of those users.

Not all drug abuse is on illegal drugs. Substance abuse, the excessive use of legal drugs, constitutes most forms of addiction.

It’s estimated that alcohol is the most abused drug, with almost half of all Americans 12 years or older consuming it. Out of this number, 25% are binge drinkers. Another 30 million abuse either prescription or recreational drugs.

Drug types associated with addiction are depressants, antidepressants, alcohol, tobacco, steroids, and barbiturates. Depressants lower central nervous system functioning; antidepressants treat depression and mood disorders; alcohol is used as a depressant; steroids are used to reduce inflammation and often abused by athletes; and barbiturates are used for sedation and anesthesia.

Public domain photo/Psychonaught

Public domain photo/Psychonaught

Out of these drugs, the most popular are alcohol, nicotine, prescription pain killers, and amphetamines. It’s estimated that 17 million Americans are addicted to alcohol while 17 million are addicted to nicotine. Prescription drugs that are most often abused fall into the categories of pain killers and amphetamines. Taking these substances for recreational purposes is generally considered drug abuse. Pain killers often abused for their side effects are Vicodin and OxyContin. Amphetamines, which may be prescribed by a doctor to treat attention deficit disorder, obesity, and narcolepsy, are also routinely abused.

How to Get Help

There are numerous different models when it comes to treatment programs. Many have a strict structure, with a comprehensive list of mandatory daily routines, and meetings with therapists and groups.

However, not all are regimented. Some centers, like SandysPlace.com, have a different philosophy. The focus is to provide individually customized programs to improve the quality and efficacy of treatments. The facility describes their treatment philosophy in the following words: “We offer our clients all levels of care. You can choose from detoxification, residential, intensive outpatient, sober living, and aftercare to meet your recovery needs. Additionally, we treat co-occurring disorders that often underlie the primary diagnosis of addiction.”

Why People Get Hooked On Drugs

There are many reasons for drug abuse, and here are 10 common reasons:

1. Drugs are used to alleviate mood disorders like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

2. Drugs are seen as socially acceptable when people see family and friends using them, as well as public figures, especially entertainers.

3. Drugs are used to fight boredom or relieve stress.

4. Drugs originally prescribed by a doctor are continued long after the recommended treatment has been discontinued.

5. Drugs are used to fit into counterculture groups. Peer pressure takes away the burden of individual responsibility.

6. Drugs are used by those with post traumatic disorder, as a way to forget painful memories and stop recurring negative thoughts and feelings.

7. Drugs are used as a way to perform better, especially in sports. They may also be used for academic purposes or to perform better in a high-pressure job.

8. Drugs are used as a way to be in a better mood and make difficult life situations more tolerable. In other words, people become addicted to getting high.

9. Drugs are used to seem more grown up, especially among preteens and adolescents.

10. Drugs may be used for experimental purposes. People hear stories about altered experience and try to see if they can achieve a higher state of consciousness or deeper perspective about the nature of reality.

The war on drugs may have failed in America, but there are plenty of options open for people addicted to drugs to seek the help they need.

Author: Ravi Kumarr Gupta


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