EUGENE, Ore. – Mention the word "drugs" in Eugene, and it's akin to saying the word "Ducks" or some other local term that defines the area.
Drugs are a clear and present danger these days, says Tom, a Eugene area drug counselor who says "the recession can be blamed on the spike in drug abuse, but the buck still stops with the user."
In turn, Tom says drugs are "way out of control in Eugene and around the country today because kids see their parents using all the time. Stop the parents abuse, and you will help end the epidemic with our kids."
Drug and alcohol addiction rise means 23 million Americans are ‘breaking bad’
The hit TV show “Breaking Bad” is about something all Americans can relate to – daily drug and alcohol abuse – with the government reporting in October that 23.1 million people in the U.S. needing “addiction” treatment and only 2.6 million getting it.
Across the U.S. there are countless millions struggling with addiction and the recession is both highlighting this previously existing problem as well as causing the need for treatment to become apparent as well, explained the website addictionwatch.com.
Meanwhile, one of America’s top TV shows, “Breaking Bad,” features a high school chemistry teacher who makes money cooking crystal meth. In fact, the recent fourth-season finale of “Breaking Bad,” earned massive ratings and has earned Golden Globes and Emmy awards because of its “realism” in exposing America’s mainstream drug culture where mom and dad are “addicted” to get them going and then slow them down, and their kids are snorting, shooting, smoking and swallowing “anything and everything they can get their hands on,” says a Eugene area drug counselor named Cherie, who was trained at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
Drug and alcohol addiction in U.S. at an all-time ‘high’
“With nearly one in 11 Americans over the age of 12 classified with substance abuse or dependence, addiction takes an emotional, psychological and social toll on the country,” states the Fall edition of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) health advisory that for October is devoted to educating Americans about “one of the most serious issues facing the country today.”
“The economic costs of substance abuse and addiction alone are estimated to exceed half a trillion dollars annually in the United States due to health care expenditures, lost productivity and crime,” reports HIH in October.
This national medical research agency -- that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – is “simply telling America that the drug problem has not gone away and, in fact, is growing and out of control,” adds Cherie who works with the same types of meth addicts that the show “Breaking Bad” paints as heroes who are trying to make ends meet during a time of recession.
Cherie explained that drug addicts here in Eugene and other parts of Oregon once let the nation in methamphetamine-treatment admissions, but now, thanks to stricter laws and treatment, meth use is now down. However, Cherie says “go figure when Breaking Bad is one of the most watched TV programs in the country because it’s about getting away with cooking and dealing meth; while not showing how addiction kills the heart and soul of users.”
The Methamphetamine – that is glamorized on “Breaking Bad” -- is dangerous because its use can lead to negative consequences such as paranoia and depression, impaired short-term memory, trouble grasping abstract concepts, dental problems, and inability to experience pleasure and accelerated brain aging. Although many people believe those addicted to methamphetamine do not recover, their rate of recovery is about the same as that for people addicted to cocaine, heroin and other stimulants, states guidance from the Oregon Health Authority.
Recession one reason why 23 million Americans are drinking or taking drugs
The recession is rough on everyone. From farms to inner city shop owners the recession is disrupting literally everything about the lives of Americans today. Everywhere you look there are uncertainties, disappointment and lack of trust in the basic stable culture we know as U.S. citizens. For the millions currently addicted to drugs and alcohol this is merely a heightened form of how they already experience the world around them,” explains the website addictionwatch.com.
“A person addicted becomes ultimately overwhelmed by life. Every argument, financial struggle and social agitation can seem like a catastrophe to those who's attention is completely distracted by their drug and alcohol use and the problems created by that usage. When you add to this misery a nation in peril from recession's lost jobs, home foreclosures, poverty bound families and constant alerts from the media that things are only getting worse, you wind up completely collapsing an individual who would have previously been able to hand on. When this collapse occurs, drug and alcohol use escalates. The legal, familial and economic factors around the person addicted become worse,” added an overview on addictionwatch.com.
In the meantime, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports in October that a review of 2010 statistics shows that “23.1 million people needed treatment for a drug or alcohol problem, and only 2.6 million, or 11.2 percent, received it.”
Also, members of the NIDA – who’ve investigated “why” so many people today are addicted to either drugs or alcohol – recently earned Nobel Prizes.The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to National Institutes of Health grantees Bruce A. Beutler, M.D., of The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif.; and Jules A. Hoffmann, Ph.D., for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity and the late Ralph M. Steinman, M.D., of Rockefeller University, New York City for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity.
NIDA points to a lack of experience by doctors in treating addiction
NIDA research suggests that many Americans are not being treated for either their drug or alcohol addiction is “primary care providers could significantly reduce drugs use before it escalates to abuse or addiction, but many express concern that they do not have the experience or tools to identify drug use in their patients.”
“Primary care providers can play such a vital role in screening for drug abuse,” adds NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., in an October news release statement. “Yet, for many providers, discussing drug abuse with their patients is beyond their comfort zone. In portraying a family devastated by this disease, the NIDA’s ‘Addiction Performance Project’ humanizes addiction, which we hope will reduce the stigma around it and encourage [physicians to confront potential drug abuse with their patients.”
Drug and alcohol now part of the “fabric of American life”
“Drug and alcohol use has become part of the fabric of American life. My connection is partly from my family experience and a little bit from the world at large. Everyone is touched by addiction in one way or another,” explained Oscar nominated actress Debra Winger who knows from first-hand experience that both celebrities and regular Americans are “so into drugs and boozing.”
While Winger and other movie stars and celebrities are volunteering for NIDA’s “Addiction Performance Project” – in an attempt “to raise the curtain on massive U.S.-wide addiction that is now swallowing up more Americans than ever before – it’s the parents who must do more, say experts, to “stop this epidemic of drugs and alcohol abuse.”
Kids in American addicted to alcohol and drugs because “mom and dad, and pop stars all do it”
Eugene area drug counsellor Cherie -- who was trained at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California – says “there’s good reason why so many children in America are not graduating, doing poorly in school, not being able to compete for jobs and careers” and a host of other social ills – because a National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that “Americans age 12 and older are dependent on or abusing alcohol and illicit drugs like never before.”
America’s moms and dads are addicted to “prescription drugs,” with Cherie pointing to recent government survey results showing that “approximately 9 million Americans are current users of prescription pain relievers, stimulants and antidepressants but not for valid medical reasons.
Now, with mom and dad taking all these prescription drugs – because of the recession, or they depressed, or they bored or tired, or whatever – there’s the kids who also are “taking mom and dad’s prescription and over-the-counter meds in huge amounts,” says Cherie who points to children she’s treated as young as “8, 9 and 10-years-old who are popping their parents pain relievers, stimulants, tranquilizers and sedatives to get through their day.”
For more information on the “Addiction Performance Project,” visit: www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed/APP.