The Impact of Addiction
Even when she was not with us in our home, Carrick's demands on our psyche dominated our lives. Multiply our experience by the anguish caused by the one in ten Americans who are dependant on or abuse alcohol, illicit drugs, and/or prescription drugs and it's clear that the emotional impact of addiction on our society is enormous.
The economic cost of substance abuse in 1995 — ten years ago — were pegged at $414 billion by the Schneider Institute for Health Policy, Brandeis University in its Substance Abuse: The Nation's Number One Health Problem report.
Well over half of Americans - sixty-three percent - say that addiction has had an impact on their lives, according to a survey conducted in April 2004 by Hart Research and Coldwater Corp., either because they are addicts themselves or a friend or family member is.
According to the government's most recent National Survey on Drug Use, more than twenty-two million people (9.3 percent of the total population) needed treatment for an alcohol or illicit drug problem in 2003, although only 1.2 million actually received it. There are no accurate estimates of the number of people in recovery, whether through formal treatment regimens, twelve-step programs, or on their own, but they logically number in the many millions.
Teen drug use is epidemic. More than one-fifth of eighth grade students report that they use alcohol, according to National Institute on Drug Abuse's Monitoring the Future survey. The figure rises steadily through high school to nearly fifty percent of twelve graders. Fifty-four percent of students have tried an illicit substance by the time they finish high school; twenty-nine percent of twelve graders have tried an illegal drug other than marijuana. The number of adolescents from twelve to seventeen admitted to substance-abuse treatment programs increased sixty-five percent between 1992 and 2002, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Substance abuse among adolescents is particularly insidious.
"More than ninety percent of adults with current substance use disorders started using before age eighteen; half of those began before age fifteen,” according to a position paper issued by Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy.
According to National Academy of Science figures quoted by the New York Times, thirty-two percent of people who try tobacco become dependent, as do twenty-three percent of those who try heroin, seventeen percent who try cocaine, fifteen percent who try alcohol and nine percent who try marijuana. Other ramifications of substance use - from fights to vandalism to rape to automobile accidents - are well known.
Still, some parents remain remarkably ambivalent about their children's drug and alcohol use, and this dichotomy has become front-page news. A Wall Street Journal feature proclaimed: “Uneasy Compromise: To Keep Teens Safe, Some Parents Allow Drinking at Home” (9/14/04, $$$).
We all know kids will be kids. The question is whether parents will be parents. I think that parents who condone, facilitate, encourage, or turn a blind eye toward underage drinking and drug use are putting their kids, and ours, in harm's way. They certainly are perpetuating a myth — drinking and drugging are requisite part of “growing up" — that unfortunately has become a social norm.