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Substance Abuse: Text


Misusing alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can have both immediate and long-term health effects.

The misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription medications affect the health and well-being of millions of Americans. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that approximately 20.3 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year.


  • The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 139.8 million Americans age 12 or older were past month alcohol users, 67.1 million people were binge drinkers in the past month, and 16.6 million were heavy drinkers in the past month.

  • About 2.2 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2018 drank alcohol in the past month, and 1.2 million of these adolescents binge drank in that period (2018 NSDUH).

  • Approximately 14.8 million people age 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder (2018 NSDUH).

  • Excessive alcohol use can increase a person’s risk of stroke, liver cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, cancer, and other serious health conditions.

  • Excessive alcohol use can also lead to risk-taking behavior, including driving while impaired. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver daily.

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  • An estimated 808,000 people had used heroin in the past year, based on 2018 NSDUH data.

  • In 2018, there were 10.3 million people age 12 or older who misused opioids in the past year. The vast majority of people misused prescription pain relievers (2018 NSDUH).

  • An estimated 2.0 million people aged 12 or older had an opioid use disorder based on 2018 NSDUH data.

  • Opioid use, specifically injection drug use, is a risk factor for contracting HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. The CDC reports that people who inject drugs accounted for 9 percent of HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2016.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Understanding the Epidemic, an average of 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

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  • Data from the 2018 NSDUH reports that 58.8 million people were current (i.e., past month) tobacco users. Specifically, 47.0 million people aged 12 or older in 2018 were past month cigarette smokers.

  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, often leading to lung cancer, respiratory disorders, heart disease, stroke, and other serious illnesses. The CDC reports that cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States.

  • The CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health reports that more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking cigarettes.

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  • 2018 NSDUH data indicates that 43.5 million Americans aged 12 or older, 15.9 percent of the population, used marijuana in the past year.

  • Approximately 4.4 million people aged 12 or older in 2018 had a marijuana use disorder in the past year (2018 NSDUH).

  • Marijuana can impair judgment and distort perception in the short term and can lead to memory impairment in the long term.

  • Marijuana can have significant health effects on youth and pregnant women.

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Substance Abuse: Emergency Services
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Addiction is a chronic and treatable disease. Using drugs repeatedly changes the brain, including the parts that help exert self-control. That’s why someone may not be able to stop using drugs, even if they know the drug is causing harm, or feel ready to stop.

Some common behaviors of addiction and substance use disorder include:

  1. Trying to stop or cut down on drug use, but not being able to.

  2. Using drugs because of being angry or upset with other people.

  3. Taking one drug to get over the effects of another.

  4. Making mistakes at school or on the job because of using drugs.

  5. Drug use hurting relationships with family and friends.

  6. Being scared at the thought of running out of drugs.

  7. Stealing drugs or money to pay for drugs.

  8. Being arrested or hospitalized for drug use.

  9. Developing a tolerance, and needing larger amounts of drugs or alcohol to get high.

  10. Overdosing on drugs.

Substance Abuse: About
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It takes courage to seek help for an addiction problem. But remember: treatment works, there are many paths to help, and people recover every day.
Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. It can take several attempts at treatment to find the right approach. Treatment helps people disrupt addiction's powerful effects on the brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.

Contact a Peer to find assistance for addiction that may work for you. Some options other than treatment facilities include:

  • Talking to a professional therapist or counselor. Your Peer Team or primary care doctor can recommend therapists in your care network, and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has locations around the country with resources for finding a therapist. (

  • Join a support group of peers. People who have common life experiences have a unique ability to help each other. Peers can be very supportive since they have “been there” and serve as living examples that individuals can and do recover. There are peer groups for people in recovery as well as their families and loved ones, including:

Substance Abuse: About Us


This presentation will address various types of substance use disorders and addiction experienced among firefighters, paramedics and dispatchers. Viewers will gain insight into the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction, as well as learn about the resources available for individuals, peers, friends, family and loved ones. We will also address how the current pandemic has changed the dynamic of recovery and substance abuse trends in this unprecedented time.

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