DRUG ABUSE & ADDICTION
A Devastating and Pervasive Public Health Crisis
Tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from drug abuse and addiction. Even more are having their lives, careers and families torn apart each day. In 2014, over 47,000 Americans lost their lives in drug overdoses, outnumbering automotive fatalities by 150 percent. Opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers accounted for over 60 percent of overall fatalities. The hierarchy of drug abuse and addiction-related deaths continues to be topped by prescription drugs, specifically opioid painkillers. More and more victims of prescription painkiller abuse are falling into heroin addiction due to increasing scarcity of diverted prescription painkillers. Heroin and prescription painkillers produce nearly identical effects.
2014 Drug-Related Overdose Deaths
The drug threat has gotten increasingly worse over the past few decades as demand for treatment continues to outpace supply. The following is a breakdown of overdose deaths in the year 2014.
- Prescription Drugs Overall – Over 25,000
- Opioid Pain Relievers – Over 18,000
- Heroin – Over 10,000
- Benzodiazepines – Over 7,000
- Cocaine – Over 5,000
Over a 15-year period (1999-2014), overdose deaths were the highest in 2014 for almost all drugs, with the exception of cocaine. In addition to the aforementioned addiction threats, designer drugs like synthetic marijuana and opioids also continue to claim more and more American lives. Despite continued and more sophisticated efforts to curb drug abuse of every kind, the problem only seems to be getting worse.
Distinguishing Drug Abuse from Drug Addiction
While drug abuse can very quickly lead to addiction, the two conditions are characterized by different symptoms and behaviors:
- Drug Abuse – Persistent and reckless abuse of illicit and prescription drugs. Drug abuse is exemplified through an escalating pattern of drug abuse that negatively impacts users’ lives (careers, families, relationships, etc.).
- Drug Addiction – Dependence on illicit or prescription drugs that is driven by changes in brain chemistry. By the time abuse turns to addiction, users are unable to stop without comprehensive clinical intervention.