Awareness Starts At Home

More Americans than ever are turning to the use of drugs and alcohol. Statistics from 2013 revealed that 24.6 million citizens 12 or older had used an illicit drug in the previous month. These growing numbers are more than a little worrisome, and West Virgininia’s drug and alcohol related deaths are being affected just as much as the rest of the country. The addiction to alcohol and other substances, it seems, has become an epidemic.

Many people don’t realize just how costly America’s drug and alcohol problem has become. For prescription drug abuse alone, it’s estimated that the United States loses up to $72 billion per year. Lost productivity, criminal justice costs, treatment, and medical expenses pile up with every case of abuse. Combined with illicit drugs and alcohol, substance abuse is taking quite a toll on our economy.

There’s a long list of drugs designed purely to get people high. Cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy, PCP, marijuana, and heroin are only a few of the most popular varieties circling our streets. The consequences for using these substances are generally much worse than alcohol or prescription medications, without even accounting for the fact that they’re illegal. The specific physical reactions depend on the drug of choice and can vary from hallucinations, anxiety, and paranoia to heart malfunction and respiratory issues. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Long-term exposure can completely change a person. Facial features and skin conditions can alter and degrade, and changes to one’s mental state (such as irritability and trouble concentrating) remain for months or years. Many people who are addicted to such substances must begin committing crimes to keep up with their cravings and spiral into dangerous dealings for a secure supply.

Alcohol’s popularity is built on its legality and easy accessibility. In fact, there are more than 40,000 different liquor stores across the nation, selling $45 billion worth of spirits annually. People like to “unwind” with drinks, consuming alcohol everywhere from restaurants to college parties to their living room couches. Along with this temporary feeling of relaxation, however, comes a deluge of negative effects.

There are numerous short-term consequences of alcohol. For example, there are minor symptoms that most people are familiar with and will experience, such as slurred speech and drowsiness. More intense manifestations include breathing difficulties, unconsciousness, anemia, blackouts, and even coma. The most severe of the temporary results, however, pale in comparison to the long-term dangers of continued use.

Liver disease, nerve damage, ulcers, gastritis, heart disease, brain damage, and cancer are examples of why engagement with alcohol is so dangerous. Of course, these conditions are in addition to the unintentional injuries that come with a clouded state of mind. Almost 10,000 people are killed each year in accidents involving the influence of drinks, and thousands more are wounded or crippled.

Despite their noble intent, opioids and other painkillers are taken for the wrong reason all across America. They’re a bit harder to come by, but the implementation of “pain clinics” has helped streamline the process of acquiring them. Prescription drugs pose some universal risks – especially the high chance of addiction.

When abusing these medications, the particular effects vary between drugs. There are some general symptoms, however, that painkillers share in common. Mood swings, poor judgement, altered mental status, increased need of sleep, changes in energy, nausea, and headaches can all signal recent misuse of the drugs.

Over long periods of time, users can experience a barrage of other changes within their bodies and lives. Problems tend to arise in their finances, careers, and academics. They’re also more likely to engage in illegal activities to secure more drugs and please their cravings. Withdrawal can happen quickly and powerfully and cause tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, hallucinations, and more, in addition to the regular altered mental states that the influence presents.

There’s a long list of drugs designed purely to get people high. Cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy, PCP, marijuana, and heroin are only a few of the most popular varieties circling our streets. The consequences for using these substances are generally mu

Long-term exposure can completely change a person. Facial features and skin conditions can alter and degrade, and changes to one’s mental state (such as irritability and trouble concentrating) remain for months or years. Many people who are addicted to such substances must begin committing crimes to keep up with their cravings and spiral into dangerous dealings.

In  2015, the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3 per 100,000), Kentucky (29.9 per 100,000), Ohio (29.9 per 100,000), and Rhode Island (28.2 per 100,000).

Significant increases in drug overdose death rates from 2014 to 2015 were primarily seen in the Northeast and South Census Regions. States with statistically significant increases in drug overdose death rates from 2014 to 2015 included Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia.

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