Alcohol and drug abuse are serious problems in the United States and all over the world. Many individuals mistakenly believe that just because a substance is “legal” and available “over the counter” or has been prescribed to them by a doctor or other health care professional that over use and addiction cannot occur.
According to the CDC, about 25% of the grown-ups in the United States are addicted to the nicotine in tobacco products. Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs even though it is available legally, and produces both physical and mental dependence in its users. Research shows that nicotine is to blame for more deaths and diseases than all other drugs combined.
Alcohol is the abused the second most frequently of any other addictive substance in the U.S. While alcohol is available over the counter and legally much like tobacco products, research and vital statistics show that alcohol is to blame in over 50% of all traffic deaths. Alcohol is both a direct and indirect contributor in over 10% of all hospital admissions annually. It is believed that around 8% of American adults are physically dependent on alcohol while many more abuse alcohol on a sporadic or waxing and waning basis.
Marijuana, also known as “weed,” ”pot,” “Mary Jane,” and a host of other nicknames remains illegal on the federal level, but many states allow medical use of marijuana. Many users become psychologically dependent on the substance and it has been proven that chronic use of Marijuana can affect male fertility, aggravate lung conditions and even cause feelings and behaviors that are disconnected from reality and also psychotic, “schizophrenic-like” states at times in a percentage of regular users.
The abuse of anabolic steroids that are available by both prescription and illegally is a growing problem worldwide. Anabolic steroids are a dangerous class of drugs that results in physical and mental addiction as well as serious and harmful side effects that continue long after usage is stopped.
There are other addictions that many people do not realize are possible. Many individuals become physically and mentally addicted to the prescription opioid medications that are prescribed for them. These strong and highly addictive drugs include hydrocodone, marketed under the names of Lortab, Vicodin, and others, as well as oxycodone that is marketed under various brand names such as Oxycontin is rising rapidly and has taken the lead over addictions to heroin. Around 4% of the adults in America are addicted to some form of prescription opiate.
Other prescription drugs that are highly abused include a drug class called benzodiazepines which is marketed under various names and whose brands include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and others. Prescription medications in the amphetamine class, such as Adderall, and the methylphenidate class such as Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, and others are also abused, particularly by college students that seek “extra help” to improve their ability to study and get work done around the clock. Addictions to all three of the above prescription classes have risen to be above the levels of abuse of the illegal stimulants such as powder and crack cocaine and meth and crystal meth.
While some substances such as hallucinogens like LSD, and mescaline and inhalants like glue, solvents are being used and abused with dangerous outcomes, true addictions to these substances are becoming increasingly rare.
One class of prescription drugs that has actually seen a decrease in usage, abuse and dependence are the barbiturates as few doctors, other than some neurologists who still prescribe Fiorinal to help with difficult migraine and other headache syndromes, still write prescriptions for these dangerous and highly addictive substances. Prescription barbiturates that were abused in the past include Nembutal, Seconal and Amytal.
There are even new, emerging substances that may be technically legal but that are really harmful substances that can be addictive, harmful and even fatal with use. Examples include Kratum, Bath Salts and many more.
With the wide variety of both legal and illegal substances that are readily available and highly addictive, it is easy to see why drug and alcohol abuse is a growing problem both in the United States and around the world.