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Substance abusers pay a terrible price for their continuous misuse of alcohol, drugs or other harmful chemicals, which exacts a toll on them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as they spiral towards addiction. It is a medical illness that can impair people cognitively and behaviorally as their brain circuitry changes over time, giving them even less control over their dependence on alcohol, illicit drugs, or improperly used medications.
However, we as a nation pay a price for substance abuse as well — the U.S. Surgeon General’s office estimates it costs America more than $400 billion each year in terms of crime, health care expenses, and lost worker productivity due to drug and alcohol abuse, and even more when prescription opioids are factored in. Substance abuse can prevent someone from holding down a job or completing their education; it can also result in health problems that require expensive medical attention, or crimes such as auto accidents or robbery that affect funding for courts and law enforcement. Here is a sobering look at some of the costs of substance abuse in America.
66.7 million: The estimated number of Americans age 12 and older who said they engaged in binge drinking over the course of a 30-day period.
24.6 million: The estimated number of Americans age 12 and older who used an illicit drug during a 30-day period.
Number of users by drug type:
Marijuana: 19.8 million
Cocaine: 1.5 million
Hallucinogens: 1.3 million
6.5 million: The estimated number of Americans age 12 and older who said they misused prescription medications such as stimulants, pain relievers, and sedatives during a 30-day period.
$249 billion: The estimated annual cost of lost productivity, health care, and criminal justice expenses due to alcohol use disorders.
40 percent: The estimated share of those alcohol abuse costs that were paid by taxpayers via the government.
$193 billion: The estimated annual cost of lost productivity, health care, and criminal justice expenses due to the use of illicit drugs.
$78.5 billion: The estimated annual cost of lost productivity, health care, and criminal justice expenses due to the abuse of non-prescribed opioids.
$161 million: The annual cost of emergency room visits due to drug abuse.
$49 billion: The cost of reduced workdays each year due to drug use disorders.
$4 billion: The cost of untimely deaths due to drug use.
$61 billion: The annual cost of drug-related crimes; crack cocaine and methamphetamines are the most common drugs that factor into crime.
63% to 83%: The percentage of U.S. people arrested for a crime who test positive for an illicit drug.
Sources: Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Drug Intelligence Center