How Do We Reverse the Drug Problem by 2025?

Sunny crowded street.

An article published by NPR and titled “Jump In Overdoses Shows Opioid Epidemic Has Worsened” sheds light on the condition of the drug crisis in America. This article points out how the drug crisis has surged forward in recent years, making it even more critical that we address it now.

We have reached a point where the existence of our country’s drug problem is common knowledge. The media covers this consistently. It is known that the U.S. is mired in what might be the worst addiction epidemic in its history. How can we reverse the dwindling spiral of addiction in America? What would it take to help everyone who is addicted to get clean by 2025?

Understanding Addiction in the U.S.

Before we can help everyone get clean, we first have to understand the drug problem fully. According to CDC Director Anne Schuchat, “We have an emergency on our hands. The fast-moving opioid overdose epidemic continues and is accelerating. The substances are more dangerous than five years ago. The margin of error for taking one of these substances is small now, and people may not know what they have.”

From 2017 to 2018, overdoses from opioids leaped forward 30 percent. A factor causing the upsurge was that the supply of opioid drugs increased. That occurred mainly in the Midwest and along the West Coast. The Northeast and Southeast also saw increases in opioid supply. Furthermore, and as Dr. Schuchat mentioned above, the types of drugs people were using became more dangerous. There were more drugs available to more people, and the drugs themselves became more harmful.

Resolving the Addiction Crisis by 2025

To understand how to resolve addiction in America by 2025, we have to know what we’re up against. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “In 2017, approximately 19.7 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD) related to their use of alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year, including 14.5 million people who had an alcohol use disorder and 7.5 million people who had an illicit drug use disorder. The most common illicit drug use disorder was for marijuana (4.1 million people). An estimated 2.1 million people had an opioid use disorder, which includes 1.7 million people with a prescription pain reliever use disorder and 0.7 million people with a heroin use disorder.”

That’s what we’re up against. That’s the most recent breakdown of how many addicts there are in the U.S., and what it is they’re addicted to.

If about 20 million people are addicted to drugs and alcohol, that means we’ll have to help four million people get clean each year to help everyone get off of substances by 2025. According to ABC News, there are about 14,000 addiction treatment facilities in the U.S.

That means 14,000 drug rehabs will each have to help about 285 people get clean each year for the next five years. If each addict is given a 90-day program, that means each rehab will have to help about 71 people per quarter. That should be doable.

There are two issues, however, that act as major stumbling blocks in accomplishing this.

  • One is an addict’s willingness to get help.
  • The other is the accessibility of treatment.

Most drug users and alcohol addicts know, deep down, that they need to get help and they want to get help. However, people who misuse drugs and alcohol often cannot overcome their habit for long enough to reach out for help. They can become quite defensive, even flat-out refusing to get help. The family members and loved ones of such addicts will have to stage interventions on them, use open and honest communication, evidence of harm, love-filled pleadings, and even possibly some degree of tough love to convince their addicted loved ones to get help. In the long run, though, the effort in doing so is quite worth it.

As for accessibility, addicts often feel as though they cannot go to treatment because treatment is not affordable for them. All too often, however, they do not pursue all of their options. Health insurance coverage can help, and family members are usually more than willing to lend assistance. Furthermore, some states offer funded or partially funded treatment options. Medicaid expansion in certain states has also made some forms of treatment more accessible.

With the numerical data mentioned above, we can see that helping those who are addicted to get clean by 2025 is not impossible. We just have to overcome the difficulties and pitfalls that lie in the path of those who would seek treatment.

A Note on Prevention

Students in a library

Just as important as helping people get off drugs, it’s also worth mentioning that we need to prevent more people from becoming addicted to drugs. That is achieved by instituting educational programs about drugs into schools. It is achieved by encouraging families to get educated about drugs and by supporting law enforcement efforts to crack down on drug crime. It is achieved by demanding changes in the medical and pharmaceutical industries to get better pharmaceutical drugs for patients which are not themselves potentially addictive.

Helping Your Loved One Get Off Drugs

I think the words of warning from Dr. Andrew Kolodny are quite fitting. Dr. Andrew Kolodny is the co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University. He was quoted in the same NPR article mentioned earlier. Dr. Kolodny says, “Overall, as a nation, we are still failing to adequately respond to the opioid addiction epidemic. It is concerning that 20 years into this epidemic; it is still getting worse. The number of Americans experiencing opioid overdoses is still increasing. It’s kind of like pointing to a burning building and saying, ‘Oh, there’s a fire there. There’s an emergency.’ And then not calling the fire department and watching it burn down.”

“… The number of Americans experiencing opioid overdoses is still increasing. It’s kind of like pointing to a burning building and saying, ‘Oh, there’s a fire there. There’s an emergency.’ And then not calling the fire department and watching it burn down.”

It could not be more clear just how dire the drug problem is. If we want to rehabilitate those who are addicted, if we want to reverse this crisis and overcome it by 2025, we will have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

That means everyone working together to combat the drug problem. It is abundantly clear that the government alone cannot fix this problem. Every single American who knows someone who is addicted to drugs needs to do everything they can to help their friend or loved one get into treatment.

Those who are addicted must also take on the responsibility of getting clean. They must come to realize that they cannot overcome this burden on their own. They need professional help. If you know someone who struggles with a drug problem, make sure they get help. We can overcome the addiction crisis by 2025. But it’s going to take all of us working together to accomplish this.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.