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Background on Substance Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse is destructive to families, economically costly, and sometimes fatal. The results of the war on drugs have been decidedly mixed: the 1997 Drug-Free Communities Act (which helps build and strengthen 14,000 anti-drug coalitions, unites civic groups to form a Civic Alliance, and mobilizes communities) has had a positive impact. Aggressive law enforcement has also contributed to ridding streets and neighborhoods of drugs. Finally, enhanced international cooperation has somewhat diverted the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States.

However, according to the Center for Disease Control, nearly one-third (32%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States involved alcohol impairment. Drug users are more likely to contract infectious diseases or to become or remain homeless. 35.8 percent of new HIV cases are directly or indirectly linked to injecting drug users. (For more information on HIV/AIDS, visit the RAC's HIV/AIDS issue page.)

In addition to the human cost exacted by substance abuse, the problem translated into financial losses for communities: illegal drugs cost our society nearly $100 billion each year. For moral, humanitarian, and fiscal reasons, reducing substance abuse must be a priority for our society.

For more information, please refer to the 2009 Annual Report of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.