Making a better future for the next generation in Michigan.

The Future of Addiction In Michigan and North Carolina

Aug 16, 2023 | Future, Michigan, Well-being | 0 comments

In last week’s post, How Will Our Children Balance Pain and Pleasure in 2040?, I argued that our children will not be able to live productive happy lives if they are dominated by addictions to substances or behaviors. Addictions can focus on a wide range of pleasure producing things including junk foods, prescription opiates, illicit drugs, social media, news, gaming, porn, shopping, gambling, alcohol, nicotine, sex, romance novels, and even work. What they have in common is the release of dopamine in the brain, the pain of quitting, and the loss of perspective on the other good things in life – like relationships, productive work, and long-term thinking.

Is Michigan setting our kids on a healthy path?

I would have to write a book, not a post, if I tried to cover all of the addictions named above. Instead, I will focus on substance abuse because it is well documented at the state level by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). SAMHSA “is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.” Take a look at some of the numbers from their surveys (for kids between ages 12 – 17 unless otherwise stated) for 2021:

MeasureUSMI
Illicit drug use in the past month  7%  9%
Marijuana use in the last year10%14%
Perception of great risk from smoking marijuana once a month23%18%
Perception of great risk from trying heroin once or twice59%58%
Alcohol use in the past month (ages 12 – 20)15%17%
Binge alcohol use in the past month (5 or more drinks, ages 12 – 20)  8%  9%
Perception of great risk from having 5 or more drinks43%38%
Substance use disorder in the past year (ages 12 – 17)  8%  9%
Substance use disorder in the past year (ages 18 – 25)26%27%
Major depressive episode in the past year (ages 18 – 25)19%19%

Taking a look at these numbers, a typical pattern appears – Michigan comes in somewhat higher than the national average on most substance usage and dangerous behaviors. Also, Michigan kids are more likely than the national average to disregard the risks of drug use.

Substance use disorder disorders lives

The really scary figures for me are how substance use disorder jumps from around one in every twelve kids in the 12 to 17 age range to one in four in the 18 – 25 age range. The definition of a substance use disorder is complex, with a dozen criteria, but the American Psychiatric Association summarizes it this way:

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex condition in which there is uncontrolled use of a substance despite harmful consequences. People with SUD have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s) such as alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs, to the point where the person’s ability to function in day-to-day life becomes impaired. People keep using the substance even when they know it is causing or will cause problems. The most severe SUDs are sometimes called addictions.

The differences between Michigan’s figures and the national averages are not large. However, being average is not a good thing. Who of us is OK with our kids having a 25% chance of substance use impairing their “ability to function in day-to-day life” as they transition into adulthood?

Our country has spent decades and billions on the war on drugs, but we keep on losing. Next week, I’ll take a look at whether any states – or countries — have found answers that provide a more hopeful future.

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