Addiction is something that most people around the world struggle with every day. But just how bad is the problem? Which drugs are most commonly abused? How can it be stopped? Keep reading to find out all this and much, much more.
The Extent of Addiction in the United States
According to U.S. government data, more than 24 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs– which equals about about one in ten Americans over the age of 12. Unfortunately, America’s addiction problems are only getting worse; more than one million more Americans use drugs each year when compared to just a few years ago.
The Most Commonly Abused Drugs
With almost 18 million Americans having serious alcohol problems, alcohol is the most commonly abused drug other than tobacco. Next on the list is marijuana, with more than 10 million Americans meeting the criteria for dependence on or abuse of the substance. After that, painkillers and cocaine are respectively abused by 2.1 and 1.1 million Americans each year.
Finally, tranquilizers and sedatives are abused by around 760,000 Americans each year, followed by heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants.
The Drugs Causing the Most Deaths
While it’s use not usually considered serious enough for a patient to enter a rehab or detox program, tobacco is actually the deadliest drug in the U.S., causing an estimated 480,000+ deaths each year. Next up is alcohol, with more than 26,000 deaths, closely followed by prescription painkillers and heroin, with 16,000+ and 8000+ deaths respectively.
However, these statistics do not compare the amount of deaths to the number overall users of each drug; more than 35 million Americans smoke cigarettes (not to mention other tobacco products), but there are far less than 1 million heroin users in the U.S, meaning that heroin has a higher death rate per user than tobacco.
The Most Dangerous Drugs
While tobacco, alcohol, heroin and prescription painkillers are certainly deadly, they aren’t the most dangerous drugs out there– they’re simply the ones that have resulted in the highest volume of deaths. The title of ‘most dangerous’ might go to heroin’s cousin, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s often 50 times stronger than heroin. Or, it could go to carfentanil, an opioid up to 5,000 times stronger than heroin that’s often used as sedative for elephants. Each of these substances can cause death in only tiny amounts; simply touching carfentanil with one’s bare hands could lead to severe illness or death.
Despite the dangers, consumption of these deadly substances is rising– as drug producers and traffickers have started to lace drugs like heroin and cocaine with these ultra-potent chemicals in order to reduce costs and create an even more addictive high. Sometimes, these substances are even mixed into pills that look like prescription drugs.
While fentanyl and carfentanil might be more dangerous than more popular drugs, they might not be the worst drugs that exist. Flakka, a relatively new synthetic drug that causes side effects that often include extreme strength, paranoid hallucinations, and sometimes, extreme violence, caused 18 deaths in one Florida county during a 6-month period between 2014 and 2015. The drug has reportedly caused multiple psychotic episodes among users, resulting in assaults, hostage taking, and events as savage as cannibalism and murder.
If drugs like tobacco, alcohol, and heroin are most likely to cause a large number of deaths, deadly substances like fentanyl likely have the highest death rate per user, and drugs like flakka cause the most danger to others, then methamphetamine is likely the drug with the highest potential to cause long-term damage to a user’s body. In fact, long-term meth use can actually cause physical damage to an individual’s brain, often seriously affecting their judgement, memory, and physical coordination. As many know, meth abuse can also change a person’s appearance, often contributing to open sores, black or rotting teeth, skin problems, and other drastic facial changes. However, the worst physical damage from meth may be faced by a user’s internal organs; long-term use may cause liver damage, heart disease, stroke, and a heavily compromised immune system.
The Most Addictive Drugs
For addiction sufferers looking to get treatment, or former addiction sufferers who are working on maintaining their sobriety, relapsing can be a frightening possibility– especially considering that relapse rates after drug treatment are often as high as 50- 90%. While that might sound high, it’s nothing compared to the two drugs with the highest relapse rate: alcohol and heroin.
With a 1998 U.S. government study finding that these substances have an estimated 86%-90% relapse rate, addiction patients need to be especially vigilant if they are serious about breaking their addictions and changing their life. Despite the disturbing statistics, it’s still important to note that far more than 10-14% of people suffering from alcohol and heroin do successfully remain sober– but it often takes them multiple attempts at getting treatment before learning how to kick their addiction permanently.
The Importance of Getting Treatment
No matter what kind of drug or alcohol addiction a patient suffers from, going to an accredited rehab program is an essential step in the healing process. A high-quality program can help a former addiction sufferer learn new sober life skills and find ways to cope with the challenges in their lives without misusing alcohol or drugs. For those who have a serious problem with drugs like alcohol, heroin, or prescription medication and have not yet stopped using, a medical detox program may be their best chance at long-term health and sobriety. Stopping ‘cold turkey,’ instead of gradually weaning off a substance may cause serious withdrawal symptoms with both short and long-term side effects, as well as exacerbate underlying psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression.