Addiction is rampant in the United States. It is a compulsion or dependence that can take many forms, virtually all of them harmful to the individuals directly involved, their associates and loved ones who surround them. Opioids, of course, have come under intense scrutiny for the havoc they had reeked on millions of Americans in the last decade. But there are many other dependencies hurting people resulting from well-known examples like smoking and drinking to less-recognized kinds. Some are more deadly than others, but they all exact a price. WellWell has identified the most common addictions plaguing America.
Nicotine and smoking go hand in hand and together have been ravaging millions of Americans for centuries. While it may, to some, seem less harmful than other addictions since cigarettes and cigars can be purchased legally, tobacco and nicotine claim more lives on an ongoing basis than any other substance. Even those who manage to survive years of smoking still face devastating health consequences from lighting up.
Alcohol is probably America’s most common addiction. Admittedly, not everyone who drinks becomes an alcoholic, but liquor is abused by almost 20 million people annually in the U.S. and it results in almost 100,000 alcohol-related deaths, which makes it the country’s third leading cause of death. Social acceptance and even encouragement of alcohol make the problem extremely difficult to tackle.
It is easier to legally gamble today than it has ever been thanks to a boom in casinos, online betting options, offtrack betting facilities and even the explosion of lotteries and scratch-off cards. These legal options don’t even include friendly card games, football pools, lotteries and high stakes illegal gaming operations. The cost of this addiction is high in terms of lost income and savings and has a carry-on impact on the families of addicted gamblers. How bad is the problem? Some estimates report two to three percent of the population is addicted to gambling.
The increase of opioid prescriptions has driven widespread opioid addiction that has not only accounted for endless lives but also served as a gateway to heroin. In fact, the likes of Vicodin, Percocet and codeine have a similar effect as heroin so when a prescription is finished, many of those addicted to these drugs race to get heroin off the streets. It isn’t surprising that with the rise of opioids, heroin deaths have risen 45 percent.
Marijuana is becoming more common as legalization spreads. In fact, it’s estimated that perhaps half of American adults have used marijuana at some time. Of those who use it regularly, 30 percent are likely to develop a substance use disorder. This can lead to health and cognitive problems.
Americans love to shop and it is estimated that close to 20 million of them can’t control their buying urges. Addiction can ruin professional lives, families and marriages. Most studies suggest that women make up about 90 percent of compulsive shoppers, but the impact on men may be overlooked because they identify themselves as “collectors,” which allows them to escape the label of a compulsive shopper.
It is debatable whether excessive Internet activity is a technical addiction. But there are nonetheless millions of people who spend multiple hours daily on the net. Some research suggests that there may be a real Internet addiction among heavy uses as changes to the brain have been identified in some of these individuals through neuroimaging. Regardless, “Internet addicts” are now identified by some as those who spend 11 or more hours on the net daily. Other studies maintain that compulsive users account for six to 14 percent of all Internet engagers.
Regardless of a person’s addiction or compulsion, services and organizations exist that can help individuals deal with their habits and kick destructive behavior. WellWell advises anyone affected by addiction to seek help.
What is the most harmful addiction listed here or elsewhere? Let us know at email@example.com.
WellWell editors independently identify services and products of interest. If readers purchase anything through the associated links, WellWell may earn a commission, which goes to support our work. Learn More.