Opiate Abuse and Addiction in the U.S.: Once a Crime, Now an Illness with a Cure

Drug addiction and substance abuse is at a level right now the likes of which have never been seen in the United States.  Without a doubt the situation is major and serious, and if something is not done soon about it the situation will only get much, much worse.

The most damaging and dangerous drug substance in the United States today, and the one that police officers have made the most arrests for, is opiate drug abuse.  Opiate drug abuse can occur with either heroin abuse or with the abuse of prescription, opiate-based, pain relievers.  Either way, it is addictive, it is dangerous, it is deadly, and it is without a doubt a life-ender whether it actually kills the user or just robs him or her of his or her free will and ability to live his or her own life.

To better grasp some context as to just how serious this really is, some facts and statistics on the issue have been included below:

• Statistics show that Opiate abuse and Opiate addiction cost Americans well over $484 billion annually.  This amount includes healthcare costs and abuses of the healthcare system, lost wages, car accidents, crime, and criminal justice system costs.

• Opiate use and addiction is linked to at least a full 50 percent of the major crimes in the United States, and at least half of all suspects arrested for violent crimes, (homicide, assault, etc.), were under the influence of opiates when arrested.

• Interestingly enough, reports indicate that nearly two-thirds of people in Opiate abuse treatment report were physically or sexually abused as children.

• The 2002 Drug Abuse Warning Network, (DAWN), reported that in the year 2002, heroin-related hospital Emergency Department episodes numbered in at a massive 93,519.

• According to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, (NSDUH), an estimated 3.7 million people had used heroin at some time in their lives, and over 119,000 of them reported using it within the month preceding the survey as it was done.  An estimated 314,000 Americans used heroin in the past year alone. The group that represented the highest number of those users was at least 26 or older.  Additionally, 57.4 percent of past year heroin users were classified with dependence on or abuse of heroin; an estimated 281,000 persons received treatment for heroin abuse.

• In the year 2006, approximately a full and alarming 20.4 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit Opiate users.

• According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, (NSDUH), 605,000 Americans age 12 and older had abused heroin at least once in the year prior to being surveyed by the NSDUH.

• According to the Monitoring the Future survey, NIDA’s overall and involved nationwide annual survey of drug use among the Nation’s 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders, heroin use remained stable from the year 2003 to the year 2004.  Lifetime heroin use measured in at 1.6 percent among 8th-graders and 1.5 percent among 10th- and 12th-graders.

What Police Offices are Doing About Opiate Abuse Today

Unless it is absolutely necessary to make an arrest based off of the specific details of any given encounter between law enforcement officials and an opiate addict, law enforcement officials and offices all across the country are trying desperately to move more into a rehabilitation approach to addicted individuals, and not so much a jailing approach.  In fact, many police offices now offer toll free addiction rehabilitation help hotlines for addicted individuals.

Any addict can actually call such a police department and can indeed speak with a police officer who can assist the addict in finding a rehabilitation program to go to get clean and sober from his or her devastating addiction.  This is indeed the future of the law’s approach to those addicted to opiates, and the plan is being encouraged more and more across all fifty states.

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