It's far from secret that addiction is a major problem in this country, but new data published in JAMA Psychiatry make that fact even harder to ignore: According to the report, nearly 10 percent of Americans – that's more than 23 million people – suffer from drug use disorder (DUD) at some point in their lives, and 4 percent have struggled with the disorder in the past year.
What Is Drug Use Disorder?
The diagnostic manual for mental disorders (aka DSM-5) defines DUD as the "problematic pattern of use of an intoxicating substance leading to clinically significant impairment or distress." To receive a DUD diagnosis, a patient must show at least two of 11 symptoms, which range from having cravings to failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home as a result of substance use.
Certain Groups More Likely to Battle Addiction
Led by Bridget F. Grant, PhD, chief of the laboratory of epidemiology and biometry at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a team of researchers analyzed data collected from in-person interviews with more than 36,000 adults and found that DUD was more common among certain groups: men, whites and Native Americans, young and previously or never married adults, people with lower education and income, and people living in the 13 westernmost states.
The study also reinforced earlier findings that have linked mental disorders with drug abuse. People who suffered from a variety of mental health conditions, including bipolar I, major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and personality disorders, were much more likely to receive DUD diagnoses.
Treatment Is Uncommon and Delayed
But here's the most shocking and saddening statistic: Only 24 percent of adults who have had DUD at some point in their lives and 13 percent of those diagnosed in the past year have actually received treatment. And it took this small group on average nearly four years after the onset of the disorder to finally receive that care.
"What these results tell us is that people tend to think drug use treatment isn't effective and there's a lot of stigma surrounding even admitting you have a drug use problem," Dr. Grant says. "We need to develop screening tools and other types of protocol so that we can identify individuals more accurately if they have a drug-use problem and refer individuals more quickly to appropriate treatment."
The study's findings reiterate what we already know: Drug abuse is a growing problem and needs to be addressed rather than ignored. And that's all the more reason to join Dr. Oz's #NightOfConversation today, November 19, to encourage parents to talk to their kids about drug addiction. Click here to find out how you can get involved.
In partnership with SAMHSA, NIDA, and the National Council on Behavioral Health, Dr. Oz is asking families across America to hold a #NightofConversation on Thursday, November 19, 2015. At that evening's dinner, he is asking parents to speak with their children about addiction. A discussion guide is available here. Dr. Oz is also asking everyone to post a picture of an empty dinner plate on social media on the 19th as a symbol that this special meal is not about the food, but instead about the conversation.