How Society Pays
Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction could be considered an epidemic. As a chronic debilitating disease addiction affects directly or indirectly over 130 million Americans. It places a staggering burden on our health care system:
- In 1990, tobacco was the most prominent non-genetic contributor to mortality in the United States, with an estimated 400,000 deaths per year.
- Alcohol was the third largest contributor with over 100,000 deaths per year.
- We spend more on addiction than we do on either cardiovascular disease or cancer.
The total cost of addiction to society has been estimated to be over 550 billion dollars per year, including substance related medical problems, crime, lost productivity, substance dependent treatment and auto insurance losses paid. More than 50 percent of serious crimes committed in the United States are drug or alcohol related.
Personal suffering associated with drug and alcohol addiction is immeasurable. Chemical addiction represents one of the greatest threats to our nation and our world. The international epidemic of addiction involves virtually every area of society, including the criminal justice system, health, education, social welfare and the economy. An estimated 38 million Americans or 15 percent of the population are chemically addicted to alcohol, drugs or both. If each addict affects 3 family members, then 60 percent of the population is directly or indirectly affected by substance dependence.
Crime is intimately interrelated with drug and alcohol abuse:
- Alcohol and drug use is a contributing factor in 54 percent of all violent crimes, 40 percent of property crimes and 64 percent of public order crimes in the United States.
- Heroin addicts alone commit an average of 178 criminal offenses per year.
- In 1991 drug related offenses were the largest single cause of federal imprisonment, accounting for 14,738 new sentences.
If nicotine dependence is included in the addiction picture, which it should, then the public health implications of drug dependence epidemic are even more staggering:
- 20 percent of the industrialized world's current population, at least 250 million people, will die of smoking related diseases.
- In the U.S. alone, almost 400,000 people will die of smoking related diseases and 18 million will experience alcohol related health problems.