Economic woes threaten to derail our nation’s financial stability, but that’s not the only potential negative impact. As Americans face more and more economic uncertainty, and the stress that goes along with it, the greater the temptation to succumb to overuse and abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs. For individuals who are already borderline for alcohol and/or prescription drug use, the more the economy sinks, the more likely they are to be pushed over the line.
Factors that impact borderline alcohol or prescription drug users/abusers
If you’re not able to provide for yourself or your family, this leads to feelings of inadequacy – as a person, husband, father, wife, mother, or sibling. Self esteem plummets as a result of other financial considerations as well, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, illness and divorce. If you are still employed, you may be constantly in fear of being the next one let go. Any and all of these factors, which are hard enough for a completely stable individual, are increasingly difficult for the borderline alcoholic or prescription drug user or abuser. In fact, the inability to face their troubles may push them over the edge, reaching for the bottle of liquor and or prescription drugs.
Troubling statistics on U.S. alcohol and prescription drug use/abuse
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism cut a wide swath across race, nationality and gender. Some 17.6 million people in the U.S. (almost one in every 12 adults) are either alcohol-dependant or abuse alcohol. Generally, men are more likely than women to fall in this category of alcohol dependency and/or abuse. Those who begin drinking early (in their teens) are at higher risk of developing alcohol problems later. Furthermore, children of alcoholic families are at risk for getting into trouble with and abusing alcohol themselves.
The 2008 National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIII: Teens and Parents, conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, found some frightening indicators. Almost half (46%) of teens, aged 12-17, report going out with friends on school nights. Of those, 50% who come home after 10:00 p.m. say that drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana or other drug use occurs, while 29% who return home between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. say this activity goes on.
Where do the teens obtain prescription drugs they use? According to the survey, 31% say from friends and classmates; 34% say from home, parents or the medicine cabinet; 16% say other, and 9% say from a drug dealer. This is a clear warning to parents to lock up all prescription medicines.
For teens, the problems are magnified by peer pressure. It’s easy to go along with the group if others are drowning their sorrows, or just getting high, on a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs. Borrowing and sharing among family and friends contributes to the downward slide of casual use to habitual use and abuse. Vicodin and OxyContin, powerful opioid painkillers, are two prescription drugs most commonly abused by adolescents. A 2008 Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), found that 15.4% of 12th graders reported using a prescription drug for non-medical reasons during the past year. Regarding alcohol, the particularly dangerous pattern of consuming 5+ drinks at a time during a two-week period, continues unabated. Teens’ attitudes toward other drugs like MDMA (ecstasy) and LSD are also troubling.
The elderly are increasingly at risk
As Baby Boomers near and enter retirement, more and more are seeking prescription drugs to ease age-related pain or injury. Some sources estimate that the number of Americans addicted to prescription drugs will double to 5 million by the end of 2020. Loss of retirement and/or health benefits, coupled with the worsening economy, can increase thoughts of futility and hopelessness among this group particularly, since they have less time from which to recoup. These feelings of despair may lead to increased use and abuse of both prescription drugs and alcohol. The combination of the two creates a potentially lethal cocktail, a form of suicide.
The NIDA estimates that the total overall costs of substance abuse in the U.S. exceeds half a trillion dollars annually.