Posted on February 27, 2019 by Origins
America’s opioid crisis gets a lot of attention, as it should. The rate of fatal overdoses involving opioids has been increasing exponentially in recent years, reaching nearly 50,000 in 2017. Clearly, the opioid crisis needs to be addressed urgently. However, opioids are not the most common addiction and they aren’t even the most fatal substance in common use. Here are the most common addictions in America.
Nearly 38 million Americans smoke, and most smokers are addicted. Of these, an estimated 16 million live with a smoking-related disease, such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung, throat, or mouth cancer, or heart disease. More than 480,000 Americans die of these diseases every year, accounting for about one in five deaths. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in America. The good news is that smoking rates have been declining steadily for decades.
More than half of American adults drink alcohol at least once a month, making it one of commonly used substances in the US. Fortunately, alcohol is not nearly as addictive as tobacco. Despite being common, only about six percent of Americans will develop an alcohol use disorder. However, that still means more than 15 million American adults will become addicted to alcohol. This can lead to serious medical problems such as liver disease, heart disease, and various cancers. Alcohol is also involved in more than half of fatal car accidents. Alcohol is estimated to be responsible for about 88,000 deaths every year.
Marijuana is far less addictive than the other substances on this list, but it is also very common and becoming more common as legalization spreads. Polls show that more than half of American adults have used marijuana, making the the most commonly used illicit substance in the US. Polls also show that between 33 and 44 percent of adults use it regularly. While fewer than 10 percent of regular users will develop a serious addiction, excessive use of marijuana can cause health and cognitive problems and lead to addiction. This may become more of a problem as marijuana continues to become more potent.
More than two million Americans are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. And the scope of misuse is even wider; an estimate 18 million used opioid painkillers for purposes other than what they were prescribed for. Often, addiction to opioid painkillers begins with a prescription and eventually progresses to heroin.
Cocaine use is surprisingly common in the US. About 1.5 million Americans report having used cocaine in the past month and more than 900,000 of users are estimated to have a substance use issue. Cocaine is responsible for more than half a million emergency room visits every year and it was involved with more than 14,000 overdose deaths in 2017.
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