The Connection Between Substance Use, Prescription Drugs & American Culture

This month I had the opportunity to visit two Gateway Foundation treatment program facilities in Swansea and Caseyville, Illinois. The staff, welcoming and well-trained, shared with me how their programs help the community and common substance abuse issues their clients are facing. Visiting the two sites made me reflect on how important, now more than ever, substance abuse counseling and support is needed. Prescription drug abuse is a growing dilemma in the United States, especially among teens and young adults ( In the United States alone, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs (Foundation for a Drug-Free World) and 52 million Americans over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime (National Institute on Drug Abuse). These statistics indicate a rising problem and prove that increased support is not only needed for those facing substance abuse but support is needed for family members in crisis as well.

Gateway Foundation is leading the fight on addiction. Their treatment programs not only offer proven theoretical approaches to addiction but they also offer an open community for friends and family suffering from addiction. One of the things that sets Swansea and Caseyville Gateway apart from their competitors is their substance education initiatives. Gateway provides an adolescent at-risk program that runs weekly, 8-10 weeks, for teens that have been assessed for their programs but do not meet the criteria for services. Shockingly, a survey conducted by the Foundation for a Drug-Free World found that almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs. The Gateway program educates youth on the dangers of substances and even brings in former users to talk to the teens about their experiences with substance abuse. Additionally, they offer a family education program for parents and family members who need more education about addiction, enabling behaviors, and how they can support their loved ones. This is a free group offered to the community.

The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population and consumes 75% of the world’s prescription drugs. (National Institute on Drug Abuse). With President Barack Obama signing the 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016, the fight against substance abuse continues. The legislation includes $1 billion in funding for opioid abuse prevention and will help to help fight the opioid epidemic ( Opioid addiction drives the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, which is drug overdose. In 2015, alone, there were 55,403 lethal drug overdose, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin (

If you, or someone you love is abusing prescription drugs or other substances, please reach out to get some help.

Gateway Foundation 24-Hour Confidential Helpline: 877-505-4673
Urban Balance,, intake: (888) 726-7170 x 1, [email protected]