The third week in January is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, or NDAFW. It was started by scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, to push back against the misinformation about drugs and alcohol that teens learn from TV, movies, music, friends, and random people on the internet. During NDAFW, people are encouraged to organize local events in communities and schools that bring together experts in substance use and addiction with teens. The goal is to spread up-to-date, research-backed information about drugs and alcohol, especially to teens, who are most vulnerable to substance use. The NIDA website, teens.drugabuse.gov has information for anyone who would like to organize a NDAFW event.
In honor of National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, here are some lesser known facts about drugs and alcohol.
Alcohol kills more Americans every year than drugs.
The opioid crisis gets a lot of media coverage, and it should. The rate of fatal opioid overdose keeps increasing every year. Opioid addiction destroys lives and families. However, alcohol is responsible for significantly more deaths every year than opioids. In 2017, more than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses, which continued an exponential rise over previous years. Of those deaths, just over 49,000 involved opioids. In comparison, alcohol is responsible for about 88,000 deaths in the US every year. About 10,000 of those deaths are caused by drunk driving accidents, about 2,200 are caused by alcohol poisoning, and the rest are from alcohol-related health problems such as liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Although alcohol is much less addictive than opioids and the risk of fatal overdose is lower, its use is far more common, which means more people are affected by it.
Cocaine can increase the spread of HIV.
There are several reasons for this. One is that some people use cocaine intravenously, which increases your risk of infection if you share needles. Another is that cocaine use makes you more prone to reckless behavior, including unprotected sex, which increases your exposure. However, once you have HIV, cocaine use can make it spread more quickly. Studies have found that cocaine impairs immune cell function and promotes the spread of the HIV virus in your body. What’s more, cocaine can potentiate damage to the cells in your brain and spinal cord, which accelerates the neurological damage, such as memory loss, movement problems and vision impairment, associated with HIV.
You can get addicted to marijuana.
A common myth about marijuana is that it’s not addictive. However, any psychoactive substance carries some risk of addiction. While marijuana is less addictive than many other substances, about 30 percent of regular users develop physical dependence and about 9 percent develop a serious addiction.
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