Drug abuse is a serious problem in the United States. A lot of people abuse drugs, many of them without fully understanding the negative consequences of doing so. One reason many people aren’t aware of the many dangers of drug abuse is because it is often a taboo topic of conversation. Drugs are viewed as bad, but the explanation for why they are bad is not always readily available. This lack of education and confusion about drugs, abuse and addiction can make a person struggling with drug abuse or addiction feel ashamed of his problem and too embarrassed or afraid to seek out help. In order to counteract this ignorance about drugs, and in order to encourage people with drug problems to get the professional help they need, it’s necessary for people to become more able and willing to talk about drugs.

Drug Abuse Statistics

SAMHSA’s 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that about 23.9 million Americans 12 and over, or roughly 9.2 percent of the population, had used illegal drugs in the month before the survey. Additionally, over 22 million people were also considered to be struggling with substance dependence or abuse in the previous year. The most commonly abused drug in 2012 was marijuana, with nearly 19 million people reporting having used the drug in the previous month. Other commonly-abused drugs included:

  • Prescription medications (6.8 million abusers)
  • Cocaine (1.6 million abusers)
  • Hallucinogens (1.1 million abusers)
  • Inhalants (500,000 abusers)
  • Heroin (300,000 abusers)

These numbers illustrate the large number of Americans who struggle with drug abuse, revealing that this is not an isolated problem that only a few people deal with. Instead, it is a widespread problem that affects both the drug abusers and their friends and family members.

Effects of Drug Abuse

Since drug abuse, dependence and addiction is such a problem throughout the country, it’s important for people to feel comfortable talking about both drug abuse and its effects. One way to do this is by discussing the following potential side effects of drug abuse, as explained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Marijuana: relaxation, impaired judgment and memory, increased heart rate, addiction, depression and anxiety.
  • Cocaine: increased heart rate and blood pressure, decreased appetite, panic attacks, insomnia, paranoia, addiction and anxiety.
  • Prescription stimulants: irregular heartbeat, increased body temperature, cardiac arrest, seizures, anxiety, paranoia and addiction.
  • Prescription sedatives: drowsiness, overdose, addiction and decreased heart rate and respiration.
  • Hallucinogens: depression, paranoia, impulsive behavior, increased heart rate and blood pressure, loss of appetite, seizures and coma.
  • Inhalants: nausea, drowsiness, hallucinations, coma, liver and kidney damage, heart failure and addiction.
  • Heroin: nausea, decreased respiration, coma and addiction.

Strategies for Talking About Drug Abuse

Sometimes the hardest part of having a conversation about drug abuse is the beginning. A lot of people don’t know how to start a productive discussion about drugs, so they just ignore the topic altogether. Some helpful strategies for talking about drug abuse are as follows:

  • Reserve judgment: although it may seem easier to label people who abuse drugs, it’s more beneficial in an open conversation to stick to the facts of drug abuse consequences and personal experiences.
  • Allow honesty: sharing thoughts and experiences related to drug abuse often requires people to reveal parts of themselves that they may have kept hidden from others, so it’s important to encourage them to tell the truth.
  • Offer support: if one or more of the people in the conversation admit to struggling with drug abuse, the other people should be prepared to help that person find the professional treatment that he needs.

Where to Find More Information About Discussing Drug Abuse

Having a conversation about drug abuse can seem scary at first, but as long as everyone involved is nonjudgmental, honest and supportive, the conversation can be productive and beneficial. If you are thinking about discussing drug abuse with a loved one and are unsure of how to approach the topic, please give our toll-free helpline a call. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, and our admissions coordinators are always available to answer your questions about discussing drug abuse. Call us today to learn more.