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Debunking the Myth of Demographics in Addiction

Florida inadvertently was instrumental in shredding the myth of addiction and who’s abusing drugs. Their welfare program now requires drug screens, and to the surprise of many 98% of recipients passed!

When we look for addicts and the scourge of addiction, the general populace remains stubbornly attached to the notion that we’re looking at lowlifes, criminals, the chronically unemployed, and the homeless.

In an effort to save the state of Florida hundreds of thousands of dollars, the state spent tens of thousands of dollars proving that addiction and drug abuse is not concentrated and limited to lower socio-economic strata.

Enlightening the populace and politicians that addiction is not more prevalent among the poor has been a decades long effort by treatment professionals. And reputable study after study continually reveals that minimally 7% of the population of the United Sates is addicted to alcohol or drugs (legal or illicit). Studies from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration continually reveal that 48% of the American adolescent and adult population used a legal or illicit in just the past week! Clearly, our general awareness and ignorance of addiction is abusing the truth.

By the best and most learned estimates, 20% of the American population is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Most of these folks are functional: they work, they are in relationships, they are physicians, attorneys, teachers, coaches, professionals in every aspect of business and service workers. These functional addicts are cousins, siblings, parents, grandparents, friends and colleagues. It is believed that of every 5 people anyone in America knows or is related to, one of them is addicted to a drug or substance.

As has been the mantra of treatment professionals since the 1940s: Educate the Public about the realities of this disease. Addiction is a neurological and medical disease. Addiction can occur in anyone from any walk of life. Addiction Prevention is best served by education and public awareness. 12 step Programs are highly effective in treating addiction. Treatment Programs really work in treating addiction. Incarceration has been shown to be the least effective method of reducing addiction.

As has been the case for so many centuries – addiction remains caught in stereotypical definitions. It will be the strong, consistent and clear voice from addiction professionals and their advocates who will ultimately change the public perception of addiction and enlighten society to addiction treatment.

S. Darcy
Vista Taos Renewal Center

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