You may have heard about the opioid epidemic in the United States. In the past few years, it’s been getting more and more press across different media. The United States Department of Human and Health Services has its own dedicated page on the opioid epidemic, and many news stations mention it regularly. It’s a serious problem, but not the only substance problem this country is facing.
Our intention isn’t to take away from the power of this epidemic and its destruction, but to share that there substance use is on the rise as a whole. Although opiates and painkillers seem to be getting the most press, these other substances can cause great damage and we shouldn’t take them lightly.
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs called tranquilizers and include medications such as Librium®, Klonopin®, Xanax®, and Valium®. Prescribed to individuals to help most commonly with anxiety, depression, and insomnia, benzodiazepines are incredibly addictive, even when taken as prescribed. In addition, benzodiazepine detox can be fatal without appropriate medical attention. Like prescription painkillers, many people become addicted after being prescribed these drugs and taking them by doctor recommendation.
One of the scariest stats about benzodiazepine abuse is that there has been a 430% increase in deaths from benzodiazepine overdoses since 2002. This is according the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s data, and shows just how many more people are taking benzos. Especially when combined with alcohol or opioids, benzodiazepine abuse can be dangerous or even lethal. Although opioids are getting the spotlight, it’s worth noting the danger of these drugs when taken over long periods, and the risks associated with addiction, withdrawal, and combining them with other substances.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2015, drinking is on the rise. Alcohol is one of those substances that many people use without problem. We all know people who have a beer here and there or a glass of wine with dinner. You may also know somebody at the other end of the spectrum who can’t seem to put down the bottle. We’re not here to say drinking any alcohol is bad or that everyone who has a glass of wine needs to stop. However, the stats surrounding alcohol-related deaths are a bit frightening.
In one study, 46% of visitors to the ER had alcohol in their systems. This doesn’t mean they were in the hospital because of drinking too much necessarily, but it is interesting to say the least. Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s data, of ER visits by patients seeking help for substance overdose, almost one-third (32%) had alcohol in their system. Because of its widespread availability and relative acceptance in social situations, alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances and its use is only increasing.
Like alcohol, marijuana has become somewhat acceptable in our society. From its medical uses to its recreational uses, it seems that marijuana is a substance accepted by a significant portion of the country, especially in certain states (you know who you are!). Although the verdict may still be out in some minds on the addictive potential, marijuana is indeed a mind-altering substance in which dependence and addiction may arise. Some may use it recreationally or medically without problems, but others may become addicted, dependent, or find themselves suffering because of marijuana use.
A study a few years ago found that over twice as many adults in the United States are using marijuana. In the same study, 51% of adults agreed that smoking marijuana weekly could be “greatly harmful,” while 33.3% said the same in 2014. We can see a trend toward more use and more acceptance here. In addition, teenage marijuana use is on the rise according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Although these numbers may not quite be the same as what we’re experiencing with opioids, it’s important to know your facts. There are many substances out there that can be harmful, that are being abused at increased rates, and that we should keep an eye on. Opioids are certainly a problem, but not our only problem.
About the Author
Changing Tides Treatment is an addiction treatment facility in Ventura, California. In addition to the common treatment offerings, Changing Tides offers nutritional counseling, encourages outdoor adventures, and offers a holistic model of treatment. Visit them at www.ChangingTidesAddictionTreatment.com.