A recent study has given America the dubious distinction of having some of the highest rates of drug addiction and drug-related deaths in the world.
According to the New York Daily News, statistics from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has shown that only Iceland suffers more drug overdose deaths per year than the U.S., and it is also the only country that ingests more marijuana than America.
Most notably, the rapid increase of pain pill and heroin addiction throughout the U.S. is cause for concern. Opioid abuse led to 42% of drug treatment cases in America during 2014, making it the most common drug requiring medical care in the country.
The study also found that a whopping 6% of Americans get high with prescription painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin on a regular basis. To put this in perspective, only 4% of Australians suffer from the same addiction, making them a distant second place on the list.
Alternet.com notes that many Americans begin taking painkillers to manage chronic pain, only to become addicted to them after their pain subsided, leading to non-medical recreational abuse. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 11 million people Americans have consumed at least one dose of Oxycontin in a non-medical way.
While the recreational use of weed and pharmaceuticals is skyrocketing around the world, cocaine use is actually dwindling. However, heroin is still quite prevalent, and some think that prescription painkillers are to blame.
According to the Des Moines Register, Americans often move on to heroin after becoming addicted to painkillers because it costs less and provides a more potent high. A single Oxycontin pill can cost anywhere from $10 to $80, while a bag of heroin sells for about $10 on the street.
In total, roughly 246 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 took some type of illicit drug last year, and researchers consider 27 million of these people to be problem drug users.
Though the study’s findings aren’t particularly surprising, they are extremely troubling. While America fancies itself as a “global leader” in most things, this is one instance in which finishing in last place would have been a good thing.