Addiction Statistics

Drug use in the United States continues to increase. In 2013, the biggest problem was illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, and meth. At the time, about 9.4 percent of the population used these drugs, which was an increase of about 1 percent over ten years.

The problem is not specific to the United States either. The World Health Organization states:

  • Alcohol abuse leads to 3.3 million deaths a year worldwide
  • 31 million people globally abuse drugs
  • 1 million inject drugs, leading to an increase in people living with HIV and Hepatitis C

The statistics in the U.S. are just as shocking:

  • On average, 130 people die from an opioid overdose every single day.
  • One in four teens has abused prescription drugs.
  • 14 million adults have alcohol use disorder
  • 400.000 adolescents have alcohol use disorder
  • Only about half of those with substance abuse get treatment for their disease.
  • Eighty percent of people who abuse heroin started using prescription opioids first. People from all walks of life take prescription medication for chronic pain and can develop a use disorder. When they can no longer get a prescription from their doctor, many turn to street drugs like heroin.

Addiction Treatment Success Rates

Addiction is a chronic illness, but treatment allows people to regain control of their lives. Reoccurrence rates are similar to other chronic diseases such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Asthma

Between 40 to 60 percent of those who undergo drug treatment experience a recurrence of drug or alcohol use. To contrast that number, the recurrence rate for hypertension is between 50 to 70 percent. When dealing with substance use disorder, it is essential to consider the medical model and make adjustments to the treatment you are receiving to move past a slip. Recovery is an ongoing process, so when symptoms recur, treatment may need to be adjusted or reinstated.

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that treatment is successful since it:

  • Reduces drug use by 40 to 60 percent
  • Reduces criminal acts by 40 percent
  • Increases a person’s prospects for employment by 40 percent

Genetics of Addiction

Addiction affects some people, while others can use drugs and drink alcohol without having a problem. Genetics is one possible reason behind developing a dependence. Each person takes half of their genes from the mother and half from their father.

These genes are responsible for hair color, eye color, height, body shape, and other general characteristics. They also contribute to the prevalence of some diseases like heart disease or diabetes. If your mother and grandmother had diabetes, you have an increased risk of developing that condition too.

Genetics plays a role in addiction as well. Having a particular genetic makeup can make you vulnerable to an addiction disorder. Studies indicate that genetics may account for 40 to 60 percent of the risk factors for alcoholism, for example.

Genetics is a powerful influencer in addiction. Twin studies indicate that if one twin develops a drug habit, the other is likely to as well and usually to the same substance. What this means is if alcohol dependence runs in your family, you are at risk for developing it too.

The environment is also an influencing factor. Merely having access to alcohol or drugs can make a difference. Someone genetically predisposed may develop an addiction if they take an opioid painkiller. If they never get that prescription, though, they might go their whole life without an opioid use disorder.

Neuroscience of Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the neurochemistry of the brain. Drugs stimulate the brain’s reward center, which makes you want to do things that are feel good to you. The reward center is responsible for many pleasurable things, for example, the urge to have sex or the desire to enjoy a good meal. When you do these things, the brain rewards you with a feel-good response from a neurochemical like dopamine. The massive burst of dopamine makes you feel good and will almost guarantee you’ll repeat the experience.

This complex process backfires when it comes to addiction. Most drugs work by stimulating the release of dopamine, and some even mimic the dopamine themselves. The human brain works to adapt to every scenario. When someone takes drugs and triggers a reward, the brain will try to correct the problem by creating a tolerance to the drug. This tolerance means it will take more of that same drug next time for you to get the same feel-good response.

The continued effect of drug use can also make it harder to experience other feel-good experiences, and using the drug becomes a critical need to feel good, or even to feel normal. When you stop using the drug, it creates an imbalance in the brain. You develop cravings and experience withdrawal until the brain adjusts and finds the chemical center again. The brain changes that come with drugs have a long-term effect, yet the brain is incredibly complex, and recovery can start healing these effects.

Do you believe that you or a loved one are suffering from a substance use disorder? Talk to our experienced addiction professionals by calling: (844) 978-1524


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