The first step to getting help is acknowledging there is a problem. In few circumstances are the problems as life-threatening and heartbreaking as with drug abuse. Friends and family members don’t want to get involved or admit it’s possible that their loved one is behaving the way they are because they have a drug problem. They go to great lengths to explain away their loved one’s erratic behavior, chronic unemployment, or frequent “illnesses” in any possible logical manner that does not take drugs into account. This creates a culture of silence about the dangers of drug abuse, because no one wants to be “the bad guy.”
Facts About Drug Abuse
The use of recreational drugs alone accounts for an estimated $151 billion USD in lost work time and productivity, medical expenses, and legal fees and incarceration expenditures every year. This staggering amount represents costs to taxpayers, insurance companies, users themselves, and employers. In addition, the physical and emotional toll of drug abuse on users and their families cannot be overstated or given a financial value. Drug abuse accounts for an estimated one third of all child abuse, neglect, and endangerment cases nationwide, and resulted in over 29,000 accidental drug overdoses in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.
No matter where in America you live, drugs are a problem. DEA statistics from 2012 show over 30,000 drug arrests, a decrease over the last three years, but still very high. This works out to roughly 84 people per day arrested on various drug charges across America in 2012. Marijuana continues to be a popular drug, although marijuana, hallucinogens, and heroin are all at their lowest since 2007. Heroin seizures, although still high, have dropped sharply from 2011, from 1,079kg of heroin seized by the DEA to 934kg in 2012. However, cocaine and methamphetamine usage and seizures continue to climb.
What are the most popular drugs?
According to DEA seizures statistics for 2012, cocaine and methamphetamine use are rising sharply. Additionally, prescription pain killers and other prescription drugs kill one person about every 19 minutes in the US. Many users state they need these drugs to “keep up” with the ever-increasing demands of our fast-paced society, or to feel better about themselves and their lives.
Examples of methamphetamine include “ice,” crystalline “rocks” of the drug, so named because of their clarity and resemblance to water ice and which are intended to be smoked in a special pipe; “crank,” a powdered form of methamphetamine which can be snorted or injected; and prescription drugs such as Desoxyn and similar drugs, which are intended for the treatment of ADHD and obesity. Methamphetamine users often appear jittery, agitated, and talk and move very quickly. With long-term use, methamphetamine users frequently stay awake for days on end, lose dangerous amounts of weight quickly, become paranoid or irritable, and may even become violent.
On the opposite side of the scale is marijuana, which produces an artificial high characterized by euphoria and a sense of well-being. In some users, marijuana may cause mild paranoia, exhibit painkilling properties, or cause weight gain because marijuana is an appetite stimulant. Marijuana is becoming increasingly popular as a prescription treatment for cancer patients, whose appetites are ravaged by chemotherapy. Because of its appetite-stimulant properties, many states have now recognized that marijuana usage under a doctor’s supervision may have medical value. However, the vast majority of marijuana users are doing so recreationally, not under medical care, and marijuana remains an illegal narcotic under FDA and DEA codes nationwide.
How Do I Know If My Loved One Has A Drug Problem?
Drug use and its associated symptoms can masquerade as a number of other things, such as depression, insomnia, or other mental or physical illnesses. Because of this, it can be very difficult to be sure your loved one is actually using. Even more difficult is making the decision to confront a loved one about possible or actual drug use. The fear that one may be falsely accusing a family member or friend of something they didn’t do often outweighs the resolve to do something about the situation.
Things to look for when trying to decide if a loved one has a drug problem include:
- Altered or irrational behaviors or moods
- Sudden changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Missing an abnormal amount of work
- Behaving secretively
- Sudden changes in emotional state, seemingly unrelated to the stated causes
- Suddenly and consistently not having money
- Suspected theft or other illegal behaviors
Many people are afraid of “jumping to conclusions” or not taking all other factors into account that may cause some or all of these symptoms, which often results in doing nothing at all. They wait for the situation to resolve on its own, often with tragic consequences.
Finding Help For Drug Abuse
State and federal government agencies and local healthcare providers have access to a wide range of physical and mental health resources designed specifically to help treat drug users. If you have any reason to believe your loved one is using illicit or legal drugs in an unsafe manner, talking to a doctor or a drug abuse counselor is a good first step in deciding whether your loved one needs help or not, as well as getting referrals to agencies who can help your loved one break the cycle of addiction. Many of these programs are available at no cost to you or your loved one, and can get them the help they need without fear of being arrested or subjected to other legal penalties.
If you are using drugs yourself and want to stop, many of these state and federal programs offer no-penalty counseling and drug abuse cessation therapy, intended to identify the behaviors behind drug abuse and empower users to choose more beneficial methods for managing stress or other perceived “benefits” of drug use. Many private employers have confidential drug abuse assistance programs as well, working on the premise that it’s more advantageous to help an employee get off drugs and reclaim their place as a valued company asset than adopting a more punitive stance. Having this conversation may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but considering the potential legal, emotional, and physical consequences, it is better to admit you need help than to wind up incarcerated or worse. Drug abuse does not go away on its own, but there is help available if you are willing to seek it.
- Drug Enforcement Administration: Statistics and Facts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prescription Drug Overdoses — a U.S. Epidemic
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Economic Costs to Society Due to Substance Abuse and Addiction