Substance abuse statistics have have become more telling in the last two decades. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 6.4% of Americans, a frightening 17 million adults, are dependent on alcohol, and that figure doesn’t include those dependent on other substances. The horrifying impact of substance abuse on abusers themselves and society as large is obvious. In 1990, 53,000 people died as a consequence of substance abuse; by 2013, that number was 127,000. Suicide rates are noticeably higher among substance abuses than they are the rest of the population, and 1 in 4 suicides committed by adolescents are linked to alcohol abuse. Alcoholics will often find their social skills deteriorate as the excessive consumption of alcohol introduces damaging toxins into the brain.  The desperation to fund their substance abuse often drives people to commit crime. In every way imaginable, substance abuse undermines healthy, productive existences and healthy, productive societies, which makes it so important to find ways to combat it.

The truly awful thing about substance abuse is that it is self perpetuating. The more people use drugs, the more their body builds up a tolerance to it. The more tolerant your body is of it, the more drugs you have to consume to feel its effects. So, people who habitually get drunk because they like the way it makes them feel will be forced over time to increase their alcohol intake, until it reaches a level they themselves would have considered unimaginable when their problem began. This makes it all the more difficult to get people to give up their use of substances, because it is not always immediately obvious to them what an issue it has become.

Substance Abuse Statistics from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

In 2014, 16.3 million adults over the age of 18 had an alcohol use disorder of some kind. Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD) effected more men than woman with 10.6 million men and only 5.7 million women.

  • Nearly 88,0009 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women9) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.10
  • In 2010, alcohol misuse problems cost the United States $249.0 billion.12
  • Three-quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse is related to binge drinking.
  • Alcohol contributes to over 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions, most notably alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries.14 In 2012, 5.1 percent of the burden of disease and injury worldwide (139 million disability-adjusted life-years) was attributable to alcohol consumption.
  • Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast.
  • Research indicates that alcohol use during the teenage years could interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase the risk of developing an AUD. In addition, underage drinking contributes to a range of acute consequences, including injuries, sexual assaults, and even deaths—including those from car crashes.23

Find more facts here: Alcohol Facts and Statistics – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Taking Action – Finding the Road to Recovery

All of this makes for pretty bleak reading, but if you know somebody who is adversely affected by their use of drugs or alcohol, or feel that you yourself may struggle with addiction, there are steps that can be taken to reduce dependency on substances and dramatically improve quality of life. For some, a stint in rehabilitation may prove helpful, boosted by being surrounded by people whose sole aim is to break their addiction, and giving their body the chance to detoxify. Amongst young people, cognitive behavioral therapy, which encourages patients to identify and challenge troublesome patterns of behavior, has been demonstrated to be extremely helpful in treating substance abuse. People often turn to substance abuse because they feel incapable of coping with stress; they hide themselves away behind a cloak of inebriation. There are so many better ways to achieve peace of mind than drugs and alcohol, however. Something as simple as regular exercise gives your body a rush of endorphins guaranteed to lift your mood. Meditation can provide you with a sense of inner calm and a better perspective of your place in the world. Even adopting a pet could help; playing with a dog or cat gives you a sense of warmth, and they can also motivate you to get out of the house for valuable exercise.

Good friends and family stick together. If someone you know is plagued by substance abuse, it really could do them a world of good to know that they are loved, that they have people in their life who are looking out for them. Of course there will be difficult times, and if a friend or loved one simply refuses to change there is no point feeling guilty yourself about it. When there is a real desire within someone you know to turn their own life around, a strong support network will make the process easier with the support of loved ones. Ultimately, the only person who has the power to change a substance abuser’s behavior is the substance abuser themselves. They have to look themselves in the mirror and recognize that their dependence on their drug of choice is ruining their life, and find the courage and resolve to make a change. When so much of your life has been spent under the influence of a drug, existence without it may seem impossible, but you will not find a single person who has recovered from substance abuse that regrets making the decision to turn their life around. It is never too late to make a positive change to the way that you live your life. There is such joy in releasing yourself from the toxic grip of drugs and alcohol, and experiencing the liberation of sobriety.

Drugs and alcohol are like the wizard in the Wizard of Oz; they convince you they possess this great power and allure, but pull back the curtain and they have nothing to offer you. That realization can be the catalyst for a profound change, one which inspires you to embrace the wonder of life as it is. Nobody needs drugs and alcohol to live a good life. The substance abuse statistics that we provided here are more or less to educate others that there is a problem with the regular use of substances. A better one will be lived without abusing substances.