Addictions are the number one cause of death in the USA. Over 400,000 deaths from tobacco and over 100,000 deaths from cirrhosis, and hundreds of thousands of deaths from overdoses, infection, homicide, suicide and heart disease related to opiates and prescription. Drug addiction fact: drugs In 2008 the cost of addictions, including alcohol, tobacco and drugs, in the USA exceeded 500 billion dollars. This includes health, crime related costs and loss of productivity.

Drug addiction facts: Addictions are the cause of 90% of incarcerations and represent 50% of psychiatric hospital admissions.

According to information collected by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 22.5 million Americans over the age of 12 were using illicit drugs in the last month. This equates to roughly 8.7 percent of people over the age of 12. Of those who admitted to have used illicit drugs in the last month, approximately 18.1 million used marijuana, 6.1 million used psychotherapeutics, 1.4 million used cocaine, 1 million used hallucinogens, 0.6 million used inhalants and 0.3 million used heroin.

Many of the people surveyed used these drugs recreationally, but many others used them because they were struggling with addiction. When drug use gets out of control, the best response is to turn to a drug rehabilitation and recovery program. If you are worried about your drug use or that of a loved one, take a look at our book, Addicted Kids; Our Lost Generation for insight into the underlying causes and innovative ways to treat these issues.

Why are addictions worse now than ever before? The answer is technology, and genetically engineered plants from which some illicit drugs are derived. This helps create supercharged chemicals, which are more concentrated and cause exaggerated effects. This also makes the drugs less expensive and more easily marketed. In addiction pharmaceutical companies make drug analogues. These are drugs that are similar to known addictive chemicals found in nature, but different enough to be patented for large profits.

Some of the drugs are manufactured and prescribed in micrograms. A microgram is 1/1000th of a milligram. In other words the drug is one thousand times more potent than a similar chemical found in nature. In addition we have a more permissive culture, and teens who are more thrill seeking, and unwilling to consider the consequences of drug use.

Drug addiction facts: We have 4.5% of the world's population but use 80% of prescribed opiates.

Since the vast majority of children use opiates for the first time from a relative or friend, these facts put our population at high risk. We must, as a society, address this issue. Prescribers need to be more judicious in prescribing opiates. Parents must watch what is prescribed for relatively minor procedures, dental, minor surgical, or other pain issues etc. Keep opiate prescriptions in a safe and secure place. The first thing an opiate addict will do when they enter a new home is ask to use the bathroom. They then search for opiates. Discard any opiates that are not used after an acute pain episode. Discuss safe methods of discarding these drugs with your doctor. Do not flush them down the toilet. They eventually will end up in our water supply if you do this. 

For more in depth information on these and related topics based on decades of personal experience, take a look at our new book Addicted Kids; Our Lost Generation

R. Santasiero MD