As news of the opioid epidemic is on front pages around the country, that and other substance abuse problems, which include alcohol, plague almost half of America’s families. Portions of the trouble continue to rise year after year, according to new research.
Gallup has released a poll that shows that 46% of American adults have dealt with substance abuse in their families. Most of that centers around alcohol, either on its own or mixed with other substances. Gallup totaled the figures, “18% have had just alcohol problems and 10% have had just drug problems, while 18% have experienced both.” The measurements cover the period of people’s lifetimes.
Thirty-five percent of those surveyed mentioned alcohol as a problem. This was relatively even across all age groups polled. Drug problems alone were reported by younger people who described their families. Among people under 55, 35% said drug abuse had or is a problem with their families. The figure was 24% among people 55 and older. Notably, education was a factor among those who reported problems. The issue was lower among college graduates (32% drinking-related and 26% drug abuse). Among people with less than a college education, the problems were more pronounced (39% drinking, 30% drug abuse).
Drinking as a cause of family trouble has surged over the decades. At 36%, it is near its highest level since Gallup began to measure the issue in 1947, when the number was 17%. It reached current levels two decades ago.
The financial cost of alcohol abuse on society is staggering. The last complete study by the CDC used 2010 figures. “Excessive alcohol consumption” cost the U.S. $249 billion that year. The major contributors to the problem were lost work productivity (72%) and health care expenses (11%). The Health Policy Group made estimates based on a slightly different scale. It reported that substance abuse has cost America $532 billion a year. This included drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
A recent 24/7 Wall St. story on America’s 25 most dangerous drugs showed alcohol among them.
Although the Gallup trend cannot be an indicator of the future, recent information shows the problem is not getting any better.
Summary of Americans’ Experience With Drinking and Drug Abuse as Family Problems
|Drinking, only, a cause of trouble in family||18%|
|Drugs, only, a cause of trouble in family||10%|
|Drinking and drugs both causes of trouble in family||18%|