Addiction Awareness: The Most Commonly Abused Drugs
Substance abuse and addiction are multifarious issues with challenges that are made more difficult to combat because of the prevalence and availability of drugs and alcohol. With the onset of alcohol and drug abuse occurring at startlingly earlier ages, addiction touches more than two-thirds of American homes. In the United States, the most commonly abused drugs today are alcohol, marijuana, and opioids.
While alcohol is not illegal for anyone over the age of 21 to consume, it is the mostly widely abused substance by teens and adults. The accessibility of alcohol, and social acceptance of drinking, make booze the drug of choice for many people. Nearly 18 million people in the United States suffer from alcohol dependency or alcoholism. Many alcoholics do not recognize their dependency and create a cycle of alcohol abuse that can last their entire lifetime. What makes alcohol abuse particularly nefarious is that it is often used with other substances, like marijuana, creating a dual addiction.
Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and is the most widely available and commonly used illicit drug in the United States. The federal government considers marijuana illegal, though it has been legalized for recreational use in nine states. Twenty-nine states have legalized some level of medical marijuana use.
Contrary to common misperceptions, marijuana can be both psychologically and physically addictive to its users. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1 in 9 adults will become addicted to marijuana. Marijuana is often considered a gateway drug, meaning that users will often try other drugs, like cocaine.
Cocaine is still widely used among many Americans. It is an easily accessible, relatively inexpensive stimulant that makes its users feel euphoric, and is often used in party environments. It is fairly quick-acting and may wear off after a short period of time, resulting in cocaine binges. Once cocaine wears off fully, users may feel a whole host of side-effects including heart problems, insomnia, mood swings and restlessness.
Opioid addiction covers a wide spectrum; everything from prescription painkillers to heroin fall under the umbrella of “opiates”. Opioid addiction has received a great deal of media attention because of the surge of the number of reported cases of death as the result of overdose. In 2016, more than 64,000 people died as the result of a drug overdose. The potency of prescription medication, often prescribed by a well-meaning doctor after surgery or injury, leaves many people involuntarily addicted to opioids, ultimately leading to abuse.
Particularly problematic with opioid addiction is the physical withdrawal that addicts experience when trying to detox. Profuse sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, seizures, body aches, and confusion are all common side-effects. Many addicts would rather suffer the throes of addiction than face withdrawal. To avoid relapse and to safely go through withdrawal, rehab is the best option.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, 52 people per day will die from a prescription drug overdose. Very often, long-term use of Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, or Vicodin — prescription drugs that are commonly prescribed to treat chronic pain — will lead to dependency and addiction. Prescription drug addiction is generally a gateway drug to heroin.
Despite the increasing awareness of the risks and danger of heroin use, more and more people are using heroin. Heroin is significantly cheaper than prescription drugs and easier to obtain, because it does not require a doctor’s prescription. While the overall number of people using heroin is smaller compared to other drug use, heroin is considerably more deadly.
A frightening trend making headlines is deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, developed to be both a painkiller and anesthetic that is often used in end-of-life management. A hundred times more potent than morphine, by itself, Fentanyl is highly addictive. When Fentanyl is added to heroin, it makes a batch more profitable for dealers — and more deadly for users. Very often, users will not know that they are getting Fentanyl-laced heroin and will overdose.
Many addicts require a full detox in order to escape the clutches of addiction. Rehab centers are generally the safest places to begin the process, helping addicts through the physical side-effects through the early stages of recovery. Twelve step programs and therapy are also necessary components to live a life free from addiction and substance abuse. With nearly one in seven Americans experiencing alcohol or drug addiction, there has never been a greater need for awareness and education.