Ask a Health Care Professional – Substance Abuse

Ask a Health Care Professional – Substance Abuse


EUGENE SUN: Did you know that according to
the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016 48.5 million Americans
used illicit drugs or misused prescription drugs? Also that year there were about 66,000
deaths due to overdose two-thirds of which involved an illicit or prescription
opioid drug. Hi, I’m Dr. Eugene Sun, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer
of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico. Substance abuse can include underage drinking,
alcohol dependence, misuse or non-medical use of prescription or over the counter
medications, tobacco products and illicit drug use. You can see from the statistics that the
toll of substance abuse on people’s health is very high. It is also important to know
that substance use in teenagers is a common and growing problem. Studies show that
by the 12th grade, two-thirds of students have tried alcohol and half of students from
the 9th to the 12th grade have tried marijuana. It is estimated that 11% of all the alcohol
consumed in the United States is consumed by minors age 12 to 20. Much of that
occurs with binge drinking. Substance use can affect growth and brain development
in teenagers and lead to altered brain function in areas responsible for memory,
motivation, learning and judgement and behavior. Those changes can then lead to mental and
physical health issues, poor performance in school, and involvement with the justice system.
Multiple additional effects of substance abuse include a number of additional physical,
mental, social and other public health problems including, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases,
domestic abuse, motor vehicle accidents, crime, and physical violence including homicide
and suicide. Overall, substance use and abuse are associatedwith at least several hundred
thousand deaths yearly in the United States, including deaths from tobacco use,
accidents including motor vehicle crashes, overdoses, intentional self-harm, and alcohol related
disease including alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis. This is a great time to learn more about
substance abuse and how you might be able to help a friend or loved one.
Increasing awareness of and decreasing the stigma associated with substance abuse
is an important part of ending the problem. [MUSIC ENDS]

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