Addiction Rates of Various Drugs Compared
> 4/17/2008 2:55:01 PM

Vague threats that drugs can turn experimenters into addicts are not particularly effective. If teenagers do recognize that drugs are dangerous, they come up with their own risk ratings based on media portrayals and anecdotes from their peers. Unwilling to let the risks float in mystery, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) initiated a study to find the relative addiction risk of a variety of narcotics.

The study, part of the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, focused on people 12 years of age and older who had first tried a drug approximately one year ago. The survey asked these initiates whether they still used that drug, as well as a battery of questions sufficient to diagnose substance dependence. Taken separately, these statistics could not accurately gauge the addictivness of a drug because there may be non-chemical reasons why someone stops taking a drug altogether and thus avoids any possibility of addiction (availability, cost, social stigma, etc.) Together, the numbers can be used to give an estimate of the sharpness of each drug's chemical hook.

To see an example of how one number alone can be deceiving, we can look at the results for crack and heroin, which come in number one and three respectively on the list of most likely to have been discontinued entirely. You might think that because 75.6% and 69.5% of people who try crack and heroin give it up, these drugs pose little risk. That would be a mistake though, because those two drugs have the highest absolute addiction rates. 13.4% and 9.2% of the people who first tried heroin and crack are dependent one year later.
These absolute numbers do not do justice to how much more addictive crack and heroine are. More than a third of the people who continued to use the drug became dependent. These numbers, while higher than many first-time users might guess, are still in line with the popular conception of those two drugs. There were other numbers though that might shock users, such as the 5.8% addiction rate for marijuana. This comes out to around 10% of continued users becoming dependent.

While parents may want to draw an equally dire picture of all drugs, this has the disadvantage of being both deceptive and unconvincing. By focusing on the gravest risks, parents may be able to warn children away with sobering numbers. It is one thing to say that crack is very addictive, it is another to show the exact, frightening, likelihood of crack turning from an entertainment into a trap.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy