The Thief That Steals All

The untimely death of Whitney Houston is a grim reminder of the destructive effects of addiction upon the lives of those addicted, their families and friends.   Even a talent as huge as Whitney’s, accompanied as it was by fortune and the adulation of millions, could not protect her from the thief that is drug addiction.  Her public and private battle with drugs and alcohol is a cautionary tale that is repeated in our schools, our homes and our places of business with frightening regularity.

The United States is facing an “epidemic” of illicit drug use.  Consider the following grim statistics:

  • In 2010 there was an estimated 22.6 million Americans over the age of 12 that were current or former illicit drug users within the last month of when the survey was given; this equates to about 8.9 percent of the population aged 12 or older.
  • The drug marijuana was the most commonly used illegal substance. There were about 17.4 million individuals who used it in the past month from when the survey was taken. From 2007 and 2010, those numbers increased to 6.9 percent, up from 5.8 or 14.4 million to 17.4 million users.
  • Individuals 50 to 59 years of age, their rate of past drug use went up from 2.7 percent to 5.8 percent from 2002 to 2010
  • An estimated 10.0 million individual 12 to 20 years of age that admitted to being drinkers; 6.5 million were binge drinkers and 2.0 million heavy drinkers.
  • Over six million children in America live with at least one parent who has a drug addiction.
  • Since 1980, the number of deaths related to drug overdoses has risen over 540 percent.
  • The most commonly abused drug (other than alcohol) in the United States by individuals over the age of 12 is Marijuana, followed by prescription painkillers, cocaine and hallucinogens.
  • Each year, drug abuse and drug addiction cost employers over 122 billion dollar in lost productivity time and another 15 billion dollars in health insurance costs.
  • Baltimore, Maryland has more per capita individuals living with heroin addiction than any other state in the U.S.
  • Since 1990, the number of individuals who take prescription drugs illegally is believed to have risen by over 500 percent.

Source: 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

In 2007 the cost of illicit drug use in The U.S. was estimated at  $193 billion by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC).  These costs are concentrated in three principle areas: crime, health and lost productivity. Far too often the benefits of drug treatment are unavailable to those who need it.  This drives up crime related costs and costs related to lost productivity.  At JMHC we see these costs reflected daily in the lives of the people we serve.  Our community is currently facing a sharp upswing in heroin abuse. This strains the resources of both law enforcement and healthcare.  A solution lies in a collaborative approach between these two entities.  We are fortunate at JMHC to have long standing partnerships with the Madison Police Department and the Dane County Sheriff’s Department.  We are currently working with both departments to address this looming crisis.

The third leg of the prevention/intervention tripod has to be an informed and involved citizenry.  I urge citizens from all walks of life to join with law enforcement and helping professionals in seeking formal and informal ways to secure our homes, our schools and our businesses from the depredations of the thief that steals all.

William Greer