When you think of drug abuse, what do you see? For many, the picture conjured in our minds is an individual drug user – odds are it’s a friend, family member, or co-worker. Sometimes, it’s even ourselves.

It’s normal to think of addiction as a personal illness; one that does damage to the user and their immediate family. Addiction affects much more than this as it puts a huge strain on several aspects of society; from healthcare to employment to prisons and jails. Drug abuse is one of the connecting fibers that join Americans, and one we can’t hide from.

A Widespread Health Issue

In 2018, more than 20 million people suffered from a substance use disorder (alcohol or drugs) within the past year. One in 13 people, 12-years-old and older, have experienced an addiction issue in the past 12 months.

Overdoses from illicit and legal drugs exceeded 70,000 in 2017 – more than double the drug-related deaths in 2007. Drug overdoses are responsible for the third most preventable deaths in the United States.

Effects of Drug Abuse on Families

Many individuals who abuse drugs do not end up homeless and destitute. Some do, but frequently, there is a family that carries the emotional and economic burden of the person who abuses drugs.

As families do whatever is in their power to continue living a healthy life, economic issues are constant in families wracked by addiction. Sometimes, money that was supposed to go to rent or food is spent on drugs, leading to food insecurity and higher rates of homelessness.

There are many other adverse effects of drug abuse on families:

  • Family conflict that might include physical and/or mental abuse and neglect
  • Loss of employment and income
  • Increased likelihood of emotional and mental disorders (like anxiety and depression) among family members
  • Family separations and divorces, and even the removal of children from homes

The Stigma of Drug Addiction and Crime

Alcoholism and addiction have been classified as a medical disease by the American Medical Association since the 1950s. The distinction has done little to treat addiction as a disease instead of a moral failing or criminal issue.

Since the War on Drugs began in the 1970s, jails and prisons have been pushed beyond capacity. More than 1 in 3 inmates are incarcerated for non-violent, drug-related offenses. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that the War on Drugs has focused on punishing people suffering from substance use disorders.

Not only do arrests for possession make it more difficult for people to get a job, but it has also had a tremendous cost to society at large. More than $1 Trillion has been spent on the “War on Drugs,” resulting in more than 45 Million arrests.

And if you think most of that damage was done in the so-called old days, think again. In 2017, someone was arrested every 20 seconds for a drug-related offense in America (totaling 1.63 million arrests from drugs alone).

Public Health and Addiction

We all know the dangers of driving while drunk from alcohol. But the health impact of drugged driving represents a similar threat to public health. As reported in the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 12.8 million people drove under the influence of illegal drugs.

It is nearly impossible to understand the part that drugs play in car crashes. Reliable tests to measure the number of drugs do not exist as it does for measuring someone’s BAC (blood alcohol content). However, it is reasonable to suggest that driving while drugged is incredibly dangerous as 44% of drivers involved in vehicle deaths tested positive for drugs.

Beyond the deaths caused from overdoses and driving, people suffering from addiction are more likely to deal with life-long health issues like infectious diseases (HIV, Hepatitis A and C, etc.), COPD, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and more. These diseases affect people even after they recover from addiction at higher rates than the general population.

Greater Economic Impact of Drug Abuse

The combined costs of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs are difficult to grasp totally. The numbers are mind-numbingly huge. In 2010, tobacco had a cost of $168 billion just from healthcare. That same year, alcohol had a health care cost of $27 billion (and $249 billion overall).

For only the 12 months in 2013, issues related to prescription opioids and addiction cost the nation $26 billion in health care, and had a total cost of $78.5 billion including costs associated with crime, healthcare and lost work productivity.

The costs of drug abuse in the United States are staggering – surpassing $600 billion each year according to more recent estimates. And unfortunately, more funds go to incarcerating people than rehabilitation and treatment.

The economic and social benefits for treating addiction as a disease rather than a criminal condition are extreme. One year of imprisonment budgets around 24,000 per person, and that’s a lost cost. On the other hand, treatment is much cheaper and actually yields a positive return of 4-7 dollars for every dollar spend.

That means, if $10,000 were spent on drug treatment and rehabilitation, society would see a return somewhere between $40,000 and $70,000 (due to reduced crime, reduced criminal justice costs, and less theft).

If you think you or someone you know might benefit from professional and proven methods for treating substance abuse and addiction (or you simply have questions about treatment options), contact a licensed, professional rehab center like Genesis Recovery.

Addiction affects countless people, but recovery affects exponentially more in a positive way.