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Drug Addiction Facts and Statistics

Getting the facts about drug addiction is a vital step in the recovery process. Facts and statistics can be powerful motivational tools, driving you to stay clean and sober even when cravings get overwhelming.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) strongly supports the use of drug education to prevent substance abuse and empower drug users to kick their addiction. The better educated you are about substance abuse and recovery, the more likely you are to stay on track with your goals and achieve the healthy, rewarding life you want.

Drug Addiction Resources Online

If you’re looking for drug addiction statistics or recovery information on the Internet, here are a few solid resources to get you started:

Pros and Cons of Studying Statistics

Drug addiction statistics can be a great educational resource for users who aren’t aware of the personal or social impact of substance abuse.

Understanding the impact of addiction — whether it be an addiction to alcohol, opioid painkillers, narcotic street drugs, marijuana or methamphetamines — can be a wake-up call for someone who’s still on the fence about recovery. If you’ve already gotten clean and sober, statistics can remind you of where you’ve been in the past, and how far you’ve come in your recovery journey.

On the other hand, statistics aren’t always helpful for addicts who are currently in treatment or thinking about getting clean. Some of the statistics on relapse rates, for instance, are not encouraging. The NIDA estimates that 40 to 60 percent of recovering addicts will backslide, meaning that relapse is not only possible but likely. If looking at numbers like that makes you feel that your situation is hopeless, remember that you yourself are not a statistic. You are a valuable, worthy individual who deserves the very best shot at recovery. Use statistics to further your awareness of drug addiction, but don’t let them determine the course of your future. Talk with a counselor, a supportive friend, a spiritual advisor or your sponsor if the numbers get you down.

How Can Drug Addiction Facts Help My Recovery?

If you feel that your life has spun out of control, learning the facts about drug addiction may help you realize that this downward spiral is part of a disease process. In the past, society tended to view drug addiction as a self-afflicted condition or as a failure of willpower, writes Charles P. O’Brien, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania. Today, studies of the effects of drugs on the brain have taught us that addiction is a chronic disease, not a moral failing. Some of the facts uncovered by drug addiction research published by the NIDA include:

  • Addiction is a protracted, relapsing malady of the brain. Symptoms include compulsive drug use in spite of the harm that drugs can cause.
  • Drugs alter brain chemistry and can cause long-lasting changes in judgment, decision-making skills, retention, learning and behavioral control.
  • Although the initial decision to take drugs may be a voluntary choice, drugs affect the brain in such a way that continued use may be beyond the addict’s control.
  • Factors like genetic makeup, gender, ethnicity, mental health, economic influences and social environment can affect a person’s risk of developing an addiction.
  • Factors like education, social support, parental supervision, positive relationships and community involvement can help reduce the risk of addiction.

Knowing that your disease has a cause may also help you realize that your disease has a cure. You can choose the best inpatient or outpatient treatment facility to help you recover. Addiction treatment programs offer integrated solutions to drug addiction that encompass:

  • Psychosocial support in the form of counseling and support groups
  • Behavioral modification through individual or group therapy
  • Pharmacological therapy with medications like gabapentin, naltrexone and buprenorphine
  • Education for families and partners about the causes and consequences of drug addiction

What Kind of Stats Are Out There?

Research organizations have covered nearly every aspect of drug addiction, from the way specific substances act on the brain to the success rates of recovery programs. Statistics track trends in the use of drugs in the United States, including drug use by age, gender and income status. Researchers compile these numbers by gathering data from emergency rooms, hospitals and treatment centers. Determining the prevalence of drug use is a top priority for many US research organizations. For example, according to information from the National Center for Health Statistics:

  • 8.7 percent of Americans ages 12 and over used street drugs (2009)
  • 6.6 percent of Americans ages 12 and over used marijuana (2009)
  • 2.8 percent of Americans used psychotherapeutic drugs for nonmedical reasons (2009)

Statistics on Alcohol and Drug Treatment Admissions

The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, tracks admissions information at treatment centers that are certified or licensed by state agencies. Statistics from TEDS show that in 2008:

  • 1.8 million people were admitted to addiction treatment facilities that report to state data systems
  • 41.4 percent of treatment admissions were for alcohol abuse
  • 20 percent of treatment admissions were for the abuse of heroin and other opiates
  • 17 percent of admissions were for marijuana abuse

Can’t Statistics Be Wrong?

Statistics can definitely be skewed or biased. Although major research organizations do their best to gather their data in the most objective way possible, there are a lot of factors that can make the results misleading. According to Policy Quarterly, statistics can be distorted if the participants in a study misinterpret the words in a questionnaire or if people who self-report certain behaviors — like drug or alcohol use — are not completely honest.

The source of a study can also warp statistics. Always check the source of the research to make sure it’s a legitimate organization that doesn’t have a strong commercial motive. Numbers can be very persuasive, so it’s not surprising that statistics are often used to sell treatment programs or anti-addiction drugs.

Although statistics may look like cut-and-dried data, those numbers can have a powerful effect on your emotions. Statistics are often used as a scare tactic to pressure substance abusers into treatment. While you need to know the facts and statistics about drug addiction, numbers alone shouldn’t motivate you to seek recovery.

So How Do I Know Which ‘Facts’ Are True?

When you’re in the grip of drug addiction, the truth can be extremely hard to identify. Because drugs like heroin, meth and cocaine affect your judgment, you may not have the ability to decide which information is reliable. When you reach out for help from a friend, family member, therapist, doctor or spiritual counselor, you take the first step towards clarity.

As you continue through detox and recovery, your judgment and intuition will grow stronger. Meanwhile, let the statistics guide you, but don’t let them get in the way of your desire to stay clean and sober.