Does the U.S. Lead in Drug Addiction?

It’s no secret that there is a drug epidemic in the United States. Different parts of the country may be more prone to abuse different types of drugs as well. The opiate and methamphetamine epidemic can be found all over the country. While there are thousands of overdoses each year in the United States, it may make you wonder how the United States is compared to some of the other countries around the world. Many other countries have different laws about drugs, and this may help or hurt their addiction statistics.

International Addiction Statistics

According to a report conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United States has one of the worst overdose problems in the world. The statistics show that the United States has about 194.6 overdose deaths per one million people, and the only country with a higher rate of overdose deaths is Iceland, which is at about 211 deaths per one million people [1]. Many countries don’t have statistics though like many parts of Africa, India and South America. The good news is that the United States also has many people who are seeking help for their issues with substance abuse. Almost 7,000 people per one million are getting help for their substance abuse problems [1].

Much like geographical areas that are prone to certain substances in the United States, there are also specific drugs that have become a problem in different countries. On a global scale, opioids are the biggest problem drug in the world. Roughly 41 percent of all people being treated for addiction in the United States are going to treatment for opioids, and this problem is also spread across areas like China, Russia, Italy and Germany [1]. In countries like Sweden and Saudi Arabia, the biggest problems are with stimulants.

The Prescription Opioid Epidemic in the United States

When it comes to prescription opioid abuse, the United States leads the world by a large margin. According to the statistics, about six percent of adults in the United States abuse prescription opioids [2]. The next closest country is Australia at less than four percent, and many other countries are at about two percent. Opiates are pure forms of opium that’s used in drugs like heroin, and this type of problem is much worse in areas where they can grow the plant like Afghanistan, Iran and Russia. This tells us that a lot of the opioid crisis in the United States isn’t coming from street dealers, but it’s coming from doctors and pharmacies.

In 1996, when OxyContin was first launched by Purdue, the medication was marketed as non-addictive [3]. In the early 2000s, OxyContin was marketed as a miracle drug for pain management, but it was soon found that the medication could become addictive. It didn’t take long for many people on the medication to become dependent to the medication. The problem became so big that it began creeping its way into suburban areas. There was a time when it seemed like addiction only affected minorities and people in poverty, but opioid crisis began getting a lot more attention when your average person began getting addicted to these medications. No matter the cause of addiction, there is help for people who struggle with this potentially fatal illness.