Why Are Alcohol and Drug Use Important to Health?
Excessive alcohol consumption considers both the amount of alcohol consumed and the frequency of drinking. Prescription drug misuse includes taking a drug in a manner other than prescribed and taking drugs that have been prescribed to another person. Although moderate alcohol use is associated with health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes , excessive alcohol use causes 88,000 deaths in the US each year . More than 46 people died every day from drug overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2016 .
In 2015, 27% of people ages 18 and older reported binge drinking in the past month, while 7% reported heavy alcohol use in the past month . Over time, excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for hypertension, heart disease, fetal alcohol syndrome, liver disease, and certain cancers . In the short-term, excessive drinking is also linked to alcohol poisoning, intimate partner violence, risky sexual behaviors, and motor vehicle crashes [2,5]. Alcohol-impaired crashes accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths in 2016—more than 10,000 fatalities .
From 1999 to 2016, overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have increased fivefold, with 200,000 deaths from overdoses related to prescription opiods during this time period. Prescription drug misuse now accounts for 40% of opiod drug overdose deaths . Since 2002, rates of use for cocaine, methamphetamines, and other hallucinogens have either declined or remained steady, while rates of marijuana and heroin use have increased [7,8]. As of 2017, more teens smoke marijuana than cigarettes  and in 2012, 156,000 people reported starting to use heroin, nearly double the number starting in 2006 . Marijuana, now legal in some states, is the most frequently used illicit drug. Teenagers account for over half of all new illicit drug users.
Alcohol and drug use have significant economic costs. Excessive alcohol use costs $249 billion in lost productivity, health care, and criminal justice expenses each year, whereas illicit drug use costs $193 billion related to crime, health care, and lost productivity .
Adopting and implementing strategies to reduce excessive use of alcohol and abuse of prescription drugs can improve the health and well-being of communities.