Know Thy Enemy 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Substance abuse – misusing alcoholic drinks and other chemical mixes in the form of prescription medicines and legal and illegal substances – is rising to the forefront in our country as a significant source of pain and death. The numbers tell the story.

The rise in substance abuse is also a result of people desperate to cope with the recently highlighted mental health crises in their lives. The problem of substance abuse and the fallout from it is getting worse. I am truly sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

In 2021, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published the Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. One of the data metrics collected was the relationship between Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) and Substance Use. The results show that adolescents aged between 12 and 17 were more likely to use or misuse drugs or other substances.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP21-07-01-003, NSDUH Series H-56). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from

Costs of Addiction

Many statistics highlight the worsening problem, but let’s consider that 2021 had a record number of recorded deaths from drug overdose – 106,700 in the US according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). That was a 16% increase over 2020. The provisional numbers for 2022 indicate a further 5% increase to 109,500 deaths and a rise in the deaths related to synthetic fentanyl. The fentanyl precursors are manufactured in China. They are then shipped to countries like Mexico for pill manufacturing and distribution which is entering the country largely through the porous southern border.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

The NIDA published a study on drug misuse and addiction and the costs to Americans in terms of health care, crime, and loss of productivity. This study segmented the victims of drug use and addiction into four categories:

  1. Teens: Teenage brains are still developing. Drug misuse and addiction can create lasting brain changes and put the user at an increased risk of drug dependence.
  2. Adults: Drug misuse in adults can create problems with thinking clearly, remembering, and overall loss of productivity in work and damage to personal relationships.
  3. Parents: Drug misuse can result in chaotic and stress-filled homes that can also lead to child abuse and neglect…and set the early stages of addiction for the next generation.
  4. Babies: Babies and fetuses who are exposed early can suffer from poor health and learning disabilities. They can also become dependent upon the drugs taken by the mother during the pregnancy.

Earlier this year in the article Drug Crisis – Where Does It Stop? I shared that we are now losing twice the number of lives per year as we did during the entire Vietnam War.  We are in a war! A war that many of us do not realize we are fighting. Add to the horrific death rate, the increasing number of citizens with compromised thinking due to the increased availability of high-level THC in many forms – traditional weed, vapes, gummies, etc.  

Fighting the War

The famous Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu lived in 500 BC and wrote the famous book “The Art of War.” He is the first person credited with the first tenet of winning a war: “Know thy Enemy.”

TIME magazine published a special edition “The Science of Addiction” in January 2020, that helps us to know the enemy. A variety of experts in their fields shared very helpful insights on addiction.

According to the US Health and Human Services (HHS) Department’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of people in the US with a substance use disorder rose from the 2018 number of 20 Million noted in the TIME article to 24 million in 2021. Since the US population is approximately 335 Million, that means that about one in 14 people you encounter has a substance abuse disorder.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

And I can tell you from personal experience – substance abuse is no respecter of persons. In fact, the more resources you have available to you, the easier it is to obtain whatever your addiction demands.  

TIME calls addiction “The disease of the Pleasures”, and some specialists add to substance abuse the addictions to sex, online gaming, pornography, gambling, shopping, and food. Brain scans often see the same pleasure centers light up with other of the above-mentioned addictions, not just substance abuse.

Substance Abuse vs Other Addictions

For context, here is the difference between substance abuse and other addictions: There are legal and social consequences from any of the addictions that are out of control. However, substance abuse offers arguably the highest level of consequences. When a person’s judgment is impaired and when the chemical demands to be satisfied no matter what, there are often severe legal and social consequences. Most folks who realize they are at the end of their ropes and need treatment have suffered severe life impacts such as jail or prison time, losing their driver’s license, family fragmentation, and physical/mental health impacts.

Incarceration and other legal consequences by themselves offer little relief from substance abuse. Chemicals are readily available in the prison black market. Ask anyone who has been incarcerated.

Again, referencing the HHS report from 2021, only 6% of folks aged 12 and over received any substance abuse disorder treatment. So we are beginning to know the enemy – the out-of-control addictions, including the most discussed chemical substance addiction. Stay tuned for future blogs as we investigate further the science of addiction and how the enemy can be defeated.  

Organizations such as Field of Hope and Gallia-Jackson-Meigs ADAMH Board work to try to help those who are lost in addiction and unsure where to go or who to turn to. At Field of Hope, we understand that there can be many obstacles when rebuilding a new life in recovery. You will not do this alone. We provide services for drug, alcohol, and gambling addiction recovery and mental health care. Caring staff will walk alongside you to help you put the pieces together from start to finish. Call us today at (740) 245-3051

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