Marijuana Abuse in America
For decades, marijuana abuse in America has continued to be a serious problem and it is the number one illicit drug abused in the United States. Marijuana is often considered a, and is thought of as a gateway drug, because of the perception by many of its users that it is mostly harmless. A gateway drug means that it usually opens the door for abusers to try other more powerful drugs in order to achieve an euphoric high. However, marijuana is a mind altering substance and it does have very real and lasting effects on the body. Although information on marijuana may seem elusive because many say the effects aren't as powerful as other illegal drugs, it is important to realize it does have addictive properties.
Marijuana is the nation's most commonly used illicit drug. More than 83 million Americans (37 percent) age 12 and older have tried marijuana at least once, according to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA). Marijuana abuse in America threatens people of every socio-economic background, geographic region, educational level, ethnicity, and racial identity. However, the effects of marijuana abuse in America are often felt disproportionally. Neighborhoods where illegal drug markets flourish are plagued by crime and violence. Americans who lack comprehensive health plans and have smaller incomes may be less able to afford treatment programs to overcome drug dependence. What all Americans must understand is that nobody is immune from the consequences of marijuana abuse and that every family is vulnerable. We must make a commitment to reducing marijuana abuse in America and not mistakenly assume that illegal drugs are someone elses concern.
Many people believe that marijuana abuse in America is not their problem. They have misconceptions that drug users belong to a segment of society different from their own or that drug abuse is remote from their environment. Well, they are wrong. Almost three quarters of drug users are employed. A majority of Americans believe that drug use and drug-related crime are among our nation's most pressing social problems. Approximately 45 percent of Americans know someone with a substance abuse problem whether they are aware of it or not.
The social and health costs to society of drug and marijuana abuse in America are staggering. Drug-related illness, death, and crime cost the nation approximately $66.9 billion each year. Every man, woman, and child in America pays nearly $1,000 annually to cover the expense of unnecessary health care, extra law enforcement, auto accidents, crime, and lost productivity resulting from substance abuse. Illicit drug use hurts families, businesses, and neighborhoods. It also impedes education and chokes the criminal justice system, health system, and social services system.
Marijuana abuse in America takes a toll on society that can only be partially measured. While we are able to estimate the number of drug-related crimes that occur each year, we can never fully determine the extent to which the quality of life in Americas neighborhoods has been diminished by drug-related criminal behavior. With the exception of drug-related homicides, which have declined in recent years, drug-related crime is continuing at a strong and steady pace.