Almost 92,000 people in the United States died from a drug-involved overdose in 2020. Accidental drug overdose is one of the leading causes of death among people under 45. Synthetic opioids, psychostimulants, cocaine, and prescription opioids were the most common substances used. Substance use disorders cost the country over $600 billion every year. The incredible emotional toll drug use takes on family members and loved ones is not mentioned. Let’s take a closer look at how drug abuse affects society today.
1. Public Health Issues
The most apparent effects of drug abuse revolve around health. Combining alcohol and tobacco, 165 million Americans aged 12 and older currently abuse drugs. 10.6% of Americans have an alcohol use disorder, at least 25.4% have a drug use disorder, and almost 24.7% of those with drug disorders have an opioid disorder.
The impact of addiction can be far-reaching, impacting others. Some of the more noticeable consequences of addiction to the public health sector include:
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: At least 5% of pregnant women use one or more addictive substances. 1 in 33 congenital disabilities or deaths is caused by drug abuse.
- Secondhand smoke: Increases the risk of heart disease and lung cancer in people who have never smoked.
- Increased spread of infectious diseases: At least 1 in every 10 cases of HIV are drug-related. Drug use is also a significant factor in the spread of hepatitis C.
- Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents: Over 45% of drivers in fatally injured accidents tested positive for drugs and alcohol.
- Mental illness: At least 4% of all adults with a substance use disorder also struggle with mental illness.
2. Economic Impact of Drug Abuse
The federal budget for drug control in 2020 is $35 billion, going towards operations, treatment, prevention, interdiction, and law enforcement. The economic consequences of drug abuse are often overlooked. However, local communities and federal government agencies see the toll of keeping up with the epidemic as they try to allocate funding to maintain communities protected.
Annual drug-abuse-related healthcare costs the US over $11 billion, including drug treatment, medical intervention, and treatment research. Emergency visits related to drug abuse add another $161 billion, plus $5.5 million for hospitalization costs.
3. The Impact on Families and Children
It’s impossible to talk about why drugs are a problem in society without talking about the family unit. Children of individuals who abuse drugs are often abused and neglected. Approximately 50-80% of all child abuse and neglect cases involved parents using drugs. They are twice as likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol later in life. Furthermore, when families deal with drug abuse, they are more likely to struggle with food insecurity, higher rates of homelessness, and emotional and mental disorders.
4. The Connection Between Drug Addiction and Crime
Many of the country’s top social problems relate to or are impacted by drug abuse. At least half of the individuals arrested for major crimes were under the influence of illicit drugs at their arrest. Drug offenses account for the incarceration of almost 400,000 people. In 2017, someone was arrested every 20 seconds for drug-related crimes.
Drug criminalization, in general, has always been a political issue with many correlations. In the US, dozens of cities are adopting pre-arrest diversion programs as a step toward decriminalization. Instead of arresting them, these programs direct people to treatment or housing for low-level drug possession arrests.
5. Economic Impact on Businesses
One surprising impact drugs have in society have to deal with workplace productivity. Many drug abusers cannot attain or hold employment; those who do work put others at risk, mainly when employed in positions where impairment can be catastrophic, such as vehicle operators, drivers, and traffic controllers. In addition, businesses are affected when employees under the influence steal cash, supplies, equipment, or products to get more drugs. Absenteeism, lost productivity, and increased use of medical and insurance benefits by employees who abuse drugs affect businesses financially.
Estimates say drug abuse costs the nation over $120 billion per year in lost productivity. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), $49 billion are lost in reduced workdays, $48 billion in incarceration expenses, and roughly $4 billion in premature deaths.