Substance Abuse and Addiction are long-standing problems for both the United States, and the state of North Carolina. North Carolina has the 30th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States. Though North Carolina is doing much to counteract these problems, there is still so much to be done.

Alcohol and tobacco abuse remain the largest drug use problems in the United States, with “two-thirds (66.6%) of people aged 12 or older reporting in 2014 that they drank alcohol in the past 12 months, with 6.4% meeting criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Each year, approximately 5,000 youth under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. And an estimated 25.2% (66.9 million) of Americans aged 12 or older were current users of a tobacco product. While tobacco use has declined since 2002 for the general population, this has not been the case for people with serious mental illness where tobacco use remains a major cause of morbidity and early death” (SAMHSA).

Also, “among Americans aged 12 or older, the use of illicit drugs has increased over the last decade from 8.3% of the population using illicit drugs in the past month in 2002 to 10.2% (27 million people) in 2014.” Following alcohol and tobacco, marijuana abuse is the third largest, followed by prescription drugs (SAMHSA).

Prescription drugs, in particular, are an enormous problem in today’s world, because they are the fastest growing drug problem in the US, with fifty Americans dying each day from prescription drug overdose and more than 6 million people suffering from prescription drug abuse disorders. Most likely, even more people abuse prescription drugs, but, since only overdoses are easily tracked, it is difficult to get accurate statistics. According to SAMHSA, “more than 50% of people aged 12 or older in 2011-2012 who used pain relievers for non-medical reasons in the past year got them from a friend or relative.” In 2015, 15 million people used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons (SAMHSA).

For many, prescription drug addiction starts with the drug being medically prescribed to them for legitimate medical reasons. WebMD states that often prescription drug addictions start with the young, citing a statistic that 8% of high school seniors used the painkiller hydrocodone for non-medical reasons. People with mental illness are also at risk, since anxiety and depression both increase the chances of someone using prescription drugs on a long-term basis.

But prescription drug disorders aren’t just suffered by the young or by those with anxiety or depression. NY Times reporter Constance Gustke discusses the abuse of prescription drugs in the elderly population in her article, “Prescription Drug Abuse Among Older Adults is Harder to Detect.” As with most prescription drug addictions, most elderly adults who abuse the drugs first used them when they were prescribed for non-medical reasons.  “Even starting on low doses of opioids can quickly turn into abuse…There are two factors for aging adults: drug tolerance that builds with time, and the body’s slowing metabolism, which gives drugs a bigger effect” (Gustke). The article quotes the medical director of a NJ outpatient detox facility:

“By 10 days of usage, you can be addicted,” Dr. Cidambi said. “You don’t think of affluent, well-put-together women as addicts. But I see this happening constantly.”

Carol Waldman, 64, became addicted to Xanax, which was prescribed by a psychiatrist, and to pain pills for chronic back and knee problems.

Carol Waldman, 64, became addicted to Xanax, which was prescribed by a psychiatrist, and to pain pills for chronic back and knee problems.

The truth is that anyone can become addicted to prescription drugs, and substance abuse of a wide variety of drugs abounds in the United States, causing serious detriment and many fatalities.

Mindpath Health in Mental Health is working hard to help those with substance abuse problems, offering many psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and therapists in our Durham, Raleigh, Wilson, Concord, Asheville,Wake Forest, Cary and Chapel Hill offices who can diagnose and treat substance use/abuse disorders. For more information on these providers, as well as access to three informational videos on substance abuse, click here: 

We want to hear from you! Please comment below!

How has substance abuse affected your life? 

Do you know anyone who has a substance abuse problem? What are they doing to get help?

Have you ever had a substance abuse problem? What did you do to get help?

Which drug do you most often see abused in your own life?

What are the consequences of that abuse? 

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