25 Jun Most Popular Drugs of Addiction in Georgia
America, Georgia, and the Opioid Epidemic
America is currently in the throes of the opioid epidemic and no state is immune to the sickness. One such state is Georgia, who has felt the impact of such a crisis more than others; in a decade alone, overdoses in the state tripled. Since the rise in overdoses, the opioid epidemic in Georgia currently averages around 1000 overdose-related deaths a year with opioids being the choice drug of addiction. Beyond that, there are approximately 10 overdoses per 100,000 residents and the vast majority of these deaths are prescription drug related—whether bootleg or prescribed.
While Georgia sits beneath the national average of drug overdoses, the cold-blooded fact that overdoses have tripled in ten years alone tells a harrowing tale of a state severely affected by drug addiction. Worst yet, most of Georgia’s drug addicts begin using when they’re teenagers, having access to illicit substances at younger ages due to the massive amount of trafficking that occurs in the state. It’s reported that around 10% of Georgia’s youth uses an illicit drug annually.
Thus, with the opioid epidemic looming over America and the rise of drug use across the state, it’s paramount that we have a conversation about the most popular drugs being abused. As a parent, friend, peer, loved one, or just someone in the community, knowing what to watch out for and what substances are surging can gear you with a weapon to fight against this cancerous problem. With drug addiction, knowledge is power and knowledge begets awareness. It’s time to fight back. That starts here, by educating yourself.
What Are the Most Popular Drugs in Georgia?
The Georgia drug problem—regarding overdose—does indeed seem to have a focal point; prescription drugs (opioids being the main substance). However, drug use often begets the rise of all drugs synonymous or not, as someone who is already using is prone to partake in other substances too. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular drugs that are currently rampant in Georgia.
Hold on, I thought I was here to read about the most popular drugs? Unfortunately, although alcohol is a substance that’s legal in America, it is still very much a drug. Alcoholism in Georgia remains to be the most dominant form of addiction, taking thousands of lives each year without mercy. Currently, Georgia ranks 12th out of 50 states for alcohol abuse, with more than 19,000 arrests in 2016 alone related to DUIs. Beyond that, of addicts seeking help, over half of this population committed to rehab due to do alcohol-related disorders.
While alcohol is typically not the sole cause of an overdose, as it’s often when alcohol mixes with another drug that can render the body lifeless, alcohol-related deaths—car accidents in particular—are still higher in Georgia than most states.
Cocaine is typically the most available ‘harder’ illicit drug in most states. With the Mexican cartel shoveling the substance over the border, it’s no surprise that, nationwide, 12,000 annual arrests are made related to cocaine, 15,000 deaths occur at the hands of it, and over 300,000 emergency visits can be linked to its use.
Classified as a Schedule II drug, it’s a substance that is deemed highly addictive and dangerous by the FDA, and can pair horribly with other narcotics, often resulting in serious health risks and consequences. Beyond cocaine in its isolated form, crack cocaine is the true killer. Last year, according to the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), more addicts were treated for cocaine addiction in Georgia compared to any other (outside of alcoholism). The vast majority of these were crack cocaine users.
The issue is this: cocaine does not have the same molecular structure as many drugs within its class and thus, it can often poach users that don’t have a history of a drug use. It’s widely considered the party drug of America, or the powder that gives you just the right amount of energy to continue the night. This lighthearted reputation often alienates it from its kin, making cocaine—across America—seem less and less like a serious drug.
This, of course, is incorrect. Cocaine is an extremely addictive substance that can easily lead to its bigger brother, crack cocaine. Paired with the wrong substances, this substance abuse becomes a deadly toxin.
As marijuana continues to become legalized across the US, it has become a topic of severe controversy. Regardless, it has not yet been legalized in Georgia, and last year alone just a little fewer than 10% of the entire population reported to have used the substance. This respectively puts it at #2 on the popularity list, trailing alcohol. While the debate about marijuana in Georgia and its classification rages on, the reality is that it’s a psychotropic substance which can guide the way to harder drug use. It remains to be a drug that can result in serious jail time and have negative impacts on the brain and body.
Users that smoke marijuana in states where it is not legalized have a propensity to use other drugs too, and are often in circles that can access them.
While we’ve highlighted the three main substances for drug abuse in Georgia—only one of which is legalized—it is important to note that these substances are not the deadliest. Used in isolation, their molecular structure is not conducive to overdose. Crack cocaine is the worst of the three but even then, it falls far behind opiates regarding health risks. We’re not advocating their safety by any means but we’re exposing a horrible truth; opiates, medicine that is FDA approved and prescribed by healthcare professionals, are the #1 killer for citizens under the age of 35 in America.
Opiates & Opioids
In just under two decades, the prescription rate of opiates in America has quadrupled. Due to a host of reasons, the largest being Big Pharma’s influence, unscrupulous doctors, and the way in which we now classify pain as a treatable medical condition, in only 18 years the rate at which we prescribed painkillers quadrupled. No, this number does not scale with population growth here in the US.
The problem, as we just mentioned, has become the primary killer of our youthful citizens, a population that should otherwise be healthy and unaffected by certain ailments. Georgia has followed suit, scaling alongside America’s looming problem. In only ten years, they’ve seen a 1000% increase in overdose hospital admissions, with 80% of all overdoses in the state being related to painkillers.
Furthermore, just fewer than 5% of Georgia’s citizens reported using opioids recreationally in the last year alone. That’s around 400,000 citizens that have not only had access to these drugs but willingly used them for recreational purposes. The issue here is that these drugs, when taken in excess can tank the respiratory system and cause an overdose. Paired with other drugs, and the cocktail becomes one of death; most painkiller-related overdoses are always coupled with a second substance.
Worst yet, bootleg opioids have now infested the underworld. As patients spill out of the doctor’s office after being revoked of their prescriptions, or unable to afford them, they then turn to the streets to satisfy their fix. Unfortunately, bootleg or ‘street opioids’ are not easy on the wallet, and a cheaper alternative can be heroin (we’ll touch on this in a moment).
A tragic byproduct brought about by the opioid crisis is a drug named fentanyl, a drug that has caused half of drug overdoses in the US. Fentanyl is a heavy-hitting opioid that is 100% stronger than morphine and 50% stronger than heroin per microgram. It’s the medicine meant to assist late stage cancer patients or those who have undergone invasive, open surgeries.
At some point, as the opioid crisis shifted into the sixth gear, drug dealers began importing fentanyl (commonly from bootleg labs in China), burglarizing it, or finding someone with access to prescription drugs. Fentanyl is not taxing on the budget and a dismal amount of the opioid can turn a poor batch of heroin into something sought after by addicts.
With little knowledge regarding this dangerous opioid, soon the drug spread from heroin to pressed pills, and now we’re seeing it cut into drugs that don’t share the same psychoactive properties—like cocaine. There are different types of fentanyl, all sharing the same deadly characteristics as the next. Today, we’re seeing a rise in opioid overdoses because of fentanyl’s sheer power. Heroin addicts, opioid addicts, and drug users alike are all at risk of using a batch of drugs cut with fentanyl. Typically, this situation creates a rise of overdoses and deaths all within a small window of time—right as the batch is released. We address this point because it’s a terrifyingly dangerous time to be a drug addict, and in May 2017 Georgia issued a statewide safety warning as overdoses—related specifically to fentanyl—claimed lives at a disturbing rate.
Another byproduct of the opioid epidemic is an increase in heroin usage in Georgia. As addicts flock to the streets only to realize that one pill of oxycontin costs nearly five times as a bag of heroin, they’re settling for a drug they would’ve otherwise never touched. While Georgia—with its current statistics—sits below the national average regarding heroin use, those on the ground seem to report differently.
In which case, we’re expecting a large correction in regards to statistics relating to or associating heroin. Worst yet, the demographics of heroin addicts is also changing, evolving into a population of all ethnicities and ages. So long as the opioid epidemic continues to strangle America, the demand for heroin will not wane.
Furthermore, as Georgia is currently a hotspot for (Atlanta specifically) cartel trafficking, copious amounts of heroin are being smuggled into the state. In February of this year, a routine traffic stop exposed two criminals transporting drugs through Georgia. In what they’re calling the biggest drug bust in Georgia’s history, over 25 kilos of heroin, valued at around $2 million dollars, was confiscated. This only goes to show where the demand currently lies for heroin and just what the cartel (and other traffickers) is capable of transporting.
Xanax followed the same trend as opioids, albeit less severe. You’ve probably heard of the drug—it’s the anxiety cure which has quite the reputation in pop culture. In two decades, Xanax prescriptions increased by 1000%. While opioids are wildly more responsible for overdoses and deaths, Xanax isn’t far behind.
Outside of opioids in Georgia, prescription drug addicts are checking into rehab because of benzodiazepines, the most common being Xanax. These anxiety-fighting pills are meant for the type of chronic anxiety disorders which render a person unable to function properly without medication. Yet they’re used recreationally, mixed with alcohol, and abundant in both older and younger groups.
However, Xanax addiction has caused plenty of overdoses, as like opioids it should never be coupled with another substance. Sadly, akin to opioids again, fake Xanax is being pressed with fentanyl, which poses a much bigger risk for users, as someone with a benzo addiction doesn’t have a tolerance built up for opioids, which ups the risk of overdose.
America’s war on drugs seems a gunfight we brought swords to. Despite the billions of dollars spent trying to reduce trafficking, establish infrastructure for addicts, and educate the masses, it seems everyday more and more illicit substances show up in our cities. Coupled with the opioid epidemic, where addicts are churning out of our healthcare system, the problem is quickly escalating.
Georgia is no novice to drug use. They’ve dealt with it for years. With nearly 300 rehabilitation homes in the state, addicts continue to file in. Yet, despite our efforts, the solution first begins with awareness, and you’re currently contributing to it by reading this.
Understanding the nature and popularity of these drugs gives you power over them, as you know their shape and design. By keeping educated, we remain prepared, and ultimately begin the change in the paradigm which will hopefully decrease drug use and save lives at once.
Willough, Mariano. “This Map Tells You Where Georgians are Dying of Drug Overdoses.” AJC. 2 June 2016. 11 Mar. 2019. https://www.ajc.com/blog/investigations/this-map-tells-you-where-georgians-are-dying-drug-overdoses/mhXbkvxj5XMRajmkEembcI/
Regan, Tom. “Meth, Cocaine Are the Most Commonly Seized Drugs in Georgia this Year.” WSB-TV Atlanta 2. 16 Jul. 2018. 11 Mar. 2019. https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/the-georgia-counties-with-highest-opioid-use-are-in-metro-atlanta/791213508
Strasser, Sheryl. “The State of Prescription Drug Use in Georgia: A Needs Assessment.” Georgia State University. 2012. 11 Mar. 2019. https://stoprxabuseinga.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2012-Rx-Drug-Abuse-Final-Needs-Assessment.pdf