Abuse of alcohol and other substances continues to be one of the most
serious public health problems in the United States. The use of alcohol and
illicit drugs exacts a tremendous toll on productivity and destroys individuals,
families, and communities. Substance abuse affects millions of individuals
on a daily basis. More than 8 million US individuals meet the diagnostic criteria
for alcohol dependence and an additional 5.6 million meet the diagnostic criteria
for alcohol abuse.1 In addition, in 2001, approximately
66.5 million individuals were tobacco smokers and nearly 16 million used an
illicit drug.2 Abuse of these substances comes
with a devastatingly high price. The US economic cost of substance abuse is
estimated to exceed $484 billion per year,3 including
$185 billion attributable to alcohol misuse,4 nearly
$138 billion attributable to smoking,5 and
approximately $161 billion attributable to illicit drugs.3 Abuse
of these substances accounts for more lives lost, illnesses, and disabilities
than any other preventable health condition. Of the more than 2 million US
deaths each year, approximately 1 in 4 is attributable to alcohol, tobacco,
and illicit drug use.6
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