Commit to Getting Clean in 2024
As the year transitions from 2023 to 2024, now could not be a better time to commit to a new version of oneself in the new year. This can be the Year of Recovery, but only if those who struggle with addiction and their family members come together, seek treatment for the addicted loved one, and put in the work.
What Is Addiction?
People who struggle with addiction need treatment because addiction does not go away on its own. Addiction is defined as being physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance to the point where one is unable to stop consuming it without incurring adverse effects (withdrawal symptoms). Another critical indicator of addiction is that the individual cannot stop using the substance despite the very clear harmful effects that substance is having on them.
Because the very nature of addiction involves being unable to stop using an addictive substance, people suffering from an addiction need help breaking the habit, the vicious cycle that makes their lives increasingly insecure and tenuous. At some point, every person with an addiction must decide that enough is enough and it is time to make a change, and there is no better time to make such a decision than at the dawn of the new year.
What Is the Scope of Addiction Today?
The abuse and misuse of drugs and alcohol is not a new phenomenon, and for the many centuries that humans have engaged in such activities, doing so has been dangerous to them. However, not only is addiction arguably more widespread in the U.S. today than it’s ever been, but engaging in addictive behavior has never been more dangerous than it is today.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six times as many people died from drug overdoses in 2021 than in 2019. Overdose deaths increased 30% between 2019 and 2020, 16% between 2020 and 2021, and 3% between 2021 and 2022. Approximately 92,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, 107,000 in 2021, and 109,000 in 2022.
While provisional reports suggest drug overdoses are beginning to level out, the CDC is still estimating more than 100,000 overdose deaths in 2023 due primarily to opioids. Opioids have been involved in over 75% of all fatal drug overdoses recorded in the last several years. If the CDC prediction comes true, 2023 will mark the third year in a row that fatal drug overdoses eclipsed 100,000, an alarming trend, especially considering no year before 2021 produced over 100,000 drug deaths.
The CDC’s reporting is confirmed by other organizations that are also sounding the alarm around skyrocketing drug overdoses, like the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIDA published bar graphs that show, painfully, how much fatal drug overdoses have climbed since the turn of the century. For example, in 1999, fewer than 18,000 Americans died from drugs. As mentioned above, in 2022, 109,000 people lost their lives to drugs.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at least 10% of Americans have struggled with drug addiction. That finding has been a cause for alarm among researchers who study the issue. “Based on these findings, more than 23 million adults in the United States have struggled with problematic drug use,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D., NIAAA director. “Given these numbers and other recent findings about the prevalence and under-treatment of alcohol use disorder in the U.S., it is vitally important that we continue our efforts to understand the underlying causes of drug and alcohol addiction.” One in ten Americans struggling with addiction is an especially alarming prospect when one considers the fact that addiction does not go away on its own. Without professional help, these individuals will continue to misuse substances and put their lives at risk every day.
Finally, as drug addiction has become increasingly prevalent across the U.S., so too has alcohol addiction expanded to become one of the leading health problems in the nation and a critical point of concern for public health officials. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 140,000 Americans lose their lives to alcohol-related causes each year (a figure that’s more than all drug-related deaths combined). NIAAA reports about 29.5 million American adults meet the criteria for alcohol addiction, and 753,000 American adolescents meet the same criteria.
What Can Families Do to Help Their Addicted Loved Ones?
2024 presents a new future, one that can be full of opportunity and hope as long as those who struggle with addiction commit to getting clean and maintaining that course. The family members of people with an addiction should take action in the new year as well, doing everything they can to get their addicted loved one help. They must start from a place of compassion and understanding when they initially confront their loved one about their addiction and then persist with them until the loved one agrees to get help.
- Don’t delay. As soon as one becomes aware that a family member or loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they must not delay. They must move fast in trying to help that individual, as addiction is a life-or-death ordeal that addicts battle with every day.
- Be honest. Those who are trying to help an addicted loved one need to be honest in emphasizing that they care for the person and are worried about their well-being. Loved ones of addicts should also reference specific examples of how the addict’s behavior is causing harm.
- Listen. No one likes being lectured to, so those attempting to help an addicted loved one should listen more than they talk and avoid speaking in a tone that seems to lecture, reprimand, or scold the addict. They should listen to what the addicted loved one has to say and express empathy.
- Offer help. Family members of addicts should encourage their loved ones to seek treatment at a qualified drug rehab center, and they should offer to assist them in finding and entering such a center.
- Commit to the long haul. An addicted loved one rarely agrees to seek help the first time they are confronted with the prospect. Their loved ones should not expect a single conversation to fix the problem. Rather, the family members of addicts should commit to the long haul and have as many conversations and confrontations with the addict as needed.
Addiction is a devastating crisis that ends lives and ruins families. Thankfully, there are ways out of the dwindling spiral of drinking and drug use. If you know someone who is addicted to mind-altering substances and cannot stop on their own, please help them find and enter treatment as soon as possible.
- CDC. “Understanding the Opioid Overdose Epidemic.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023. cdc.gov
- CDC. “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023. cdc.gov
- NIDA. “Drug Overdose Death Rates.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023. nida.nih.gov
- NIH. “10 percent of U.S. adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives.” National Institutes of Health, 2015. nih.gov
- NIAAA. “Alcohol’s Effects on Health.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023. niaaa.nih.gov