We see or hear news stories about addiction almost every day. There are statistics, overdose deaths, DUI arrests, and celebs checking into rehab. Legal prescription and illicit drug use and abuse seem to be at an all-time high, (pardon the pun.) Is the news sensationalized or is it really that grim?

It’s not Just the Pills

Besides substance abuse (alcohol, tobacco and drugs,) addiction comes in other equally harmful forms. Gambling, eating, shopping, porn/sex, and even technology addictions can interfere with or even ruin lives. With so many opportunities for addictive behavior to manifest, odds are that you or someone you know has been touched by addiction. Knowing the enemy is a good first step to fighting back.

What is Addiction?

Simply put, addiction is a chronic disease involving compulsive behavior.  Typically, addicts do not have control over what they are doing due to physical and/or mental dependence. Unlike a habit, which involves choice and an ability to stop, an addict can’t disengage from the behavior, no matter how destructive it might be.
The causes of addiction and factors contributing to it are wide and varied. Genetics, environmental, emotional, circumstantial, mental and physical factors may all play into a person becoming an addict or not. Recent studies have shown that both substance and behavioral/psychological addictions trigger similar “reward” areas of the brain.

By the Numbers—Bad and Good News

Are we at epidemic levels of addiction?  The numbers seem to indicate that possibility in some cases, but not all.

A few discouraging statistics are :

  • Almost 25 million Americans have an addiction, excluding tobacco
  • Both illicit and prescription drug use and abuse is up overall
  • Approximately 100 people die daily from drug overdoses
  • Over 5 million annual ER visits are drug-related
  • Substance abuse costs the economy over $740 billion annually


There is some good news, hidden amongst the bad:

  • More people are seeking and in treatment—700,000 per day
  • Use of cocaine, hallucinogens, PCP, and ecstasy (MDMA) is down
  • Fewer Americans are smoking
  • Alcohol dependence/abuse are down overall

The government doesn’t collect statistics on non-substance addiction. Various estimates indicate that 5.5 million adults have serious or compulsive gambling problems.  Another 18-24 million suffer some form of sex addiction, and anywhere from 3-6% of the current population may have some type of technology addiction.

Opioids and Synthetics—the New Enemy

America appears to have an opioid problem. We are five percent of the global population, yet we consume a whopping 80% of the opioid drugs. Opioids include legal drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as the illegal opium and heroin. Even though prescriptions for opioids are down, use, abuse, and overdoses are up. Long-term use and abuse are on the rise, and it seems there is no end in sight.
The other emerging problem is the abundance of synthetic drugs, often referred to as Spice, Bath Salts, K2, Flakka, and other odd names.  Often available in convenience stores and gas stations, they promise to offer cheap highs similar to illegal drugs.
Most come from China, and none can be effectively regulated by the FDA or DEA, as the names and formulas change too quickly. The one thing they all have in common is that they are far from safe. They offer unpredictable results at best, and in many cases have led to hallucinations, psychotic behavior (including murder) and even death.

Finding Solutions

Addiction in any form is problematic, but rest assured, it can be overcome.  Many forms of rehabilitation and treatment are available.  In most cases, insurance will cover some, if not all of the costs, and low-cost or free options exist.
If you think you or a loved one may have a problem with addiction, the following resources will help you spot the warning signs and seek assistance:
Addiction doesn’t have to control you or someone you know.  Armed with the right tools, the road to recovery can be found.  For more information on addiction, drug use, and rehabilitation search GetThrive.com