Article  Human Dignity  Substance Abuse

5 Facts about substance abuse in America

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This weekend many churches in America will observe Substance Abuse Prevention Sunday. In preparation for the observance, here are five facts you should know about the most commonly abused substances in America.

1. Alcohol is the most commonly abused – and most deadly — drug in America —  In 2012, 71 percent of Americans reported they drank in the past year; 56.3 percent reported that they drank in the past month. An estimated 17 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder — a medical term that includes both alcoholism and harmful drinking that does not reach the level of dependence. Each year in the U.S., nearly 80,000 people die from alcohol-related causes, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in our country.

2. Binge Drinking is common – especially among the elderly and the wealthy. – Binge drinking is the consumption of alcoholic beverages with the primary intention of becoming intoxicated in a short period of time. One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge. While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often — an average of five to six times a month. Binge drinking is also more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes.

3. Alcohol abuse is a primary factor in injuries, assaults, and deaths among adolescents — More adolescents drink alcohol than smoke cigarettes or use marijuana. By age 15, more than 50 percent of teens have had at least one drink and the effects are frequently detrimental. Researchers estimate that each year 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes; 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking; and 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

4. After alcohol, marijuana has the highest rate of dependence or abuse among all drugs — In 2012, 4.3 million Americans met clinical criteria for dependence or abuse of marijuana in the past year—more than twice the number for dependence/abuse of prescription pain relievers (2.1 million) and four times the number for dependence/abuse of cocaine (1.1 million).

5. Most drug overdose deaths were caused by prescription drugs —Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers—also called opioid pain relievers. The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. parallels a 300 percent increase since 1999 in the sale of these strong painkillers. These drugs were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008, more than cocaine and heroin combined.

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