Why Most American’s Have a Drug Addiction Problem

22 01 2012

Sometimes We Can't See What's in Front of Us Until it's Gone

Why do I say most American’s have a drug problem?  Oh I don’t know, could it be that when looking through our nation’s addiction related statistics it doesn’t bode well in understanding we have a big problem.  Let’s take a look at the most recognized illegal/legal drug use data and then decide how many of us will escape an addictive habit that could ultimately cause each one of us more pain and suffering than necessary throughout our lifetime.  And just because a depressant or stimulant can be purchased legally does not mean it is not causing harm to you or others around you.

While rummaging through the Internet, I noted there was a ton of information on legal and illegal drug use and addiction.  Looking at the DEA Drug Seizure statistics for 2010, I came up with the following drug confiscation data seized and measured in kilograms:  Cocaine (29,179 kgs), Heroin (690kgs), Marijuana (722,476kgs), and Methamphetamine (2,067 kgs), Hallucinogens (2,578,935 dosage units).  These numbers are indeed impressive drug seizure statistics.  But, it is also acknowledged by all drug enforcement agencies that these numbers only represent a fraction of what’s being used on the streets.  So really, how do you quantify actual production and use of drugs under the radar?

In 2010, national and state statistics information pertaining to drug use, addiction and drug abuse shows:  22.6 million Americans over the age of 12 have used illicit drugs within the last month of the survey being completed.  The drug most used by 17.4 million individuals other than alcohol is marijuana; and then followed by painkillers, then hallucinogens and cocaine.  Drug overdoses has risen 540% since 1980.  Prescription drug abuse is up 500% since 1990.  The cost to employer’s employee productivity from drug abuse is 122 billion dollars per year.

Now looking at alcohol as America’s number one legal drug problem, it appears almost none of us can escape being exposed to a likely addiction that for many will destroy lives.  After all none of us knows who has an addictive predisposition to alcohol or for that matter any other legal or illegal drug.

It is also true drug use data serves as a good statistical consumer indicator for other business models to fulfill consumer supply and demand. Addictive drug use data can also be used as a predictive indicator to determine future consumer sales and potential earnings for other related products and services.  For example, in knowing Americans spend an average of $90 billion dollars every year on alcoholic beverages has a percentage based relationship to alcohol related crash and spousal abuse data.  These statistics are very good predictors of other social and penal services that will likely be used to justify budgets for example.

For many children an alcohol experience begins at a very early stage in life.  This proof is easily obtained by simply reviewing a bit of data.  For example, at the beginning of the year 2000, an estimated 7 million of our youth from 12 to 20 years old admitted to being drinkers.  Another 6.4 million were admitted binge drinkers.  Over 6 million children claimed to live with parents that have a drug addiction problem.  56% of students in grades 5 to 12 mention that advertising alcoholic beverages encourages them to drink.

In 2001, a survey showed 25 million Americans admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol and that 23% of our 18-25 year olds self admitted to this fact.  Local law enforcement statistics shows us that ~2 million arrests nationwide are made each year due to driving under the influence.  Although these statistical numbers are alarming, it would be more alarming because only a portion of alcohol abuse is recorded because a majority of those driving under the influence are not caught.  The same is also true of national surveys; many alcoholics do not self-proclaim their alcohol use.  But one statistic is pretty clear:  the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows 17,488 people were killed in vehicular traffic related accidents.  Now compare that number to a mid-size populated town and that statistic is alarming.

What is the impact to our economy regarding alcohol abuse?  Approximately 100 million in health care costs.  That does not include employment productivity losses, penal system costs, personal injury, property damage and intervention treatment, etc.  Unemployed adults are found to be the highest percentage (12.2%) of drinkers between the ages of 26 through 34.  Industrial injuries (47%) and fatalities (40%) are directly related to alcohol abuse.

It is very difficult to hone in on what’s creating America’s addictive product consumer use habit.  It’s more like American’s have a constant battle to control addictive behavioral habits they know are bad for them and those around them.  It doesn’t help that the marketers find other ways to add addictive and unhealthy products back into the consumer food chain for the sake of generating higher profit margins.  For example, adding more caffeine and sugar in our consumer foods, to include more nicotine in our tobacco products.   Talk about shooting fish in a barrel at a young age.  This is a good way to target in on the young addictive personality types that will likely begin a new consumer drug habit.  It stands to reason future generation will likely fall prey to other unhealthy addictions.

Let’s take a look at the two legal consumer products in our markets and cost to our health and economy when abused.  Every year tobacco kills 440,000 people through tobacco related illnesses.  That’s more Americans than the Vietnam and WWII casualties combined.  In total, tobacco causes more than 5 million disease related deaths per year (lung, kidney, breast, pancreas, lymph, ovaries, larynx, mouth and neck cancer, etc.).  Also think about the medical sustaining costs for related illness and diseases caused by tobacco use and the impact on our national health care system.

For every 1 person that dies from smoking tobacco, 20 more will suffer with a long-term illness (respiratory, immune, intestinal, organ failure etc.).   The tobacco industry spends approximately $34 million dollars a day in advertising (2006).  It’s no wonder roughly 1 in 5 high school students are addicted to tobacco.

Another way to look at this picture, we the consumer are “in a way” paying the $34 million dollar a day tobacco advertising bill.  You ask how?  The advertising and promotion of tobacco products is increasing consumption of tobacco products at younger ages while contributing to increased health care costs.   You may, or may not agree with that.  But if you see a half truth in this, it means a partial cost to nonsmokers.

Following this partial cost logic…  Why can a tobacco business deduct an advertising expense that creates more health insurance and tax cost to non-smokers.  But we the non-smoking tax payer cannot deduct portions of our Medicare and receive reduced health insurance cost benefits? How’s that fair?  Shouldn’t these manufactures, or health insurance carriers be required to pay the difference of the nonsmokers Medicare and tax burden for contributing to the total cost of our health care system?  I think that would be fair.  But that’s another story.

Moving on, let’s look at the “seemingly” least harmful addiction consumer business market model.  This consumer model hopes to create repeat addicts to more caffeine and sugar drinks by first attracting our youth to an addictive and “seemingly” harmless “pick me” up in the morning and then “later” integration of these products for future generations hooked on the products.  One only has to think of the plethora of energy drinks that has entered our market place within the recent years.  These drinks are loaded with caffeine and sugar and proven to cause illness and disease when abused.

For example a Monster Energy XXL drink contains 4 times the average content of caffeine found within a can of soda (22-46mg of caffeine). This energy drink contains 240mgs of caffeine.  The 81g of average sugar content in products like this appear to contribute to weight gain and obesity.  And when the metabolism becomes impacted by the ingredients for one, leads to anxiety and increased blood pressure.  It is also noted that once a consumer stops drinking these drinks after a period of time the following withdraw symptoms occur:  depression, lethargy, nausea, headaches and vomiting.  Although daily doses up to 400mg of caffeine/day for most adults is OK (University of California), it is not healthy for nursing mothers, children and teens.  Another noteworthy caffeine statistic:  50% of the population or 150 million Americans drink coffee.  Also, independent coffee shops alone equate to 12 billion in annual sales.

It appears that most American’s young and old have very addictive consumer habits in general with regard to tobacco, sugar and caffeine products including prescription and illegal drug use.  From this perspective you must understand that addictive products influence behavior to repeat the habit.  And with that being said, you can follow the logic: consumer sales are partly dependent on repeat behavioral habits and are predictable by our markets.  I like to refer to this predictability as landing the fish through repeatable and dependable behavioral habits.  In other words our market place, government and law enforcement understands a percentage of people when given the opportunity to get their hands on a product will likely try it, and at some point in their lives will also abuse it.  And therefore a percentage of consumers will become a hooked fish that cannot resist biting again.

Luckily, and although disturbing only a fraction of Americans as seen within the data presented have a serious legal/illegal drug dependency problem.  And thinking further about this addiction model, benefits the economy by creating and sustaining many jobs (penal system, socialized intervention programs, drug enforcement, prescription drug manufacturing, health care, distilling/sales of spirits, tobacco industry, chemical food additive industry, etc.).

The economic and commerce logic appears to be: it is a small portion of society that appears to be an acceptable addict and ill-health casualty.  This cost of doing business appears to be good for the benefit of the whole.  I’m not saying this is a good thing, or I agree with it.  I’m saying it is important to understand this relationship.  And in understanding the relationship, you and your family have an opportunity not to become an economic consumer casualty and burden on others.

Many lives are lost and families are destroyed as indicated by this data.  Our society has deemed the loss to be a small price to pay as our freedoms and liberties allow us choices within the boundaries of the law.  Our government and businesses also see addiction abuse as a small cost of doing business.  And these models will not likely change much because the detrimental cost to our society appears to be acceptable by a majority of a free society.  However, with escalating health costs, this model will likely change in significant degrees throughout the years.

Thinking more on repeatable and predictable consumer behavioral habits also leads to the following conclusions.  I believe addiction is wired into each one of us and we all will crave something in our lives to make us feel better about our circumstances or realities.  Our commerce and government business models understand this consumer-habit-behavioral connection that may/may not lead one to destructive and addictive habits.  And also understands a percentage of us will become cash cow industries for disability and ill-health consumer demands by its very nature of a churning economy.

Let me also point out addiction does not always involve a drug habit.  For example, we can also be addicted to power, control and greed.  These things when or if not balanced in life create internal and external stresses that effect one or others that can lead to an addictive drug habit.  So by the shear nature of being human we can all push, pull and shove each other into “misery loves company” addiction regardless of societal class.  I’ve not pinpointed what is causing our ever increasing addictive needs for a daily pick me up, or to relax during free time.  I suspect our need of addictive consumption is partially related to cultural shock caused by competitive global markets.

We now find ourselves living in a 21st Century world that has become politically, socially and economically constrained by various and competitive cultural models.  And these models have become ever too complex and an unacceptable shock reality for many.  I’m not sure our physical, mental and spiritual beings are wired to adequately survive these cultural shock stresses.  And for those that can’t deal with these ever changing environmental stresses, marketers then acquire a new wave demographic of addicts that need a bigger energy boost or drug fix throughout the day to deal with the competitive stress of living in a new world economy.  This is just one way you could read why addictive drug habits and bad behaviors are on the rise.

You’ll find much information on the Internet to support the contention that cultural shock, drug use and addiction are inter-related and are greatly affecting behavior.  For which many genetically predisposed to addiction will become statistical addicts and mortalities of harmful drugs.

It is obvious there is a plethora of addictive legal and illegal products in the market that are easily obtainable for our consumption.  Unfortunately when you become addicted to any substance; the potential to abuse other drugs also tend to increase.

And harmful drug dependency not only harms the user, but also harms others with whom they interact.


US Drug Enforement Administration. Statistics and Facts.  http://www.justice.gov/dea/statistics.html

Michael’s House.  Drug Addiction Facts and Statistics http://www.michaelshouse.com/drug-addiction/drug-addiction-statistics/

Drug-Rehabs.org. Alcohol Statistics. http://www.drug-rehabs.org/alcohol-statistics.php

MyAddiction.com. Tobacco, Smoking, and Nicotine Addiction Statistics and Facts. January 14, 2012 http://www.myaddiction.com/education/articles/tobacco_statistics.html

Wilkinson, J. Monster Energy Drink Addiction.  Mar 7, 2011 http://www.livestrong.com/article/398579-monster-energy-drink-addiction/

Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET. 2011 Copyright, All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @: http://www.mirrorathlete.com,  Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.




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