You are not alone

Over the years I have had the opportunity to determine  how widely spread addiction actually is. Let’s take a closer look at some numbers, both in my native country The Netherlands  and in the US. You will notice that you are not alone. The numbers are quite staggering.

According to the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics at least 800.000  people have a drinking problem on a total population of 16 million. According to the National Drug Monitor and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) 363.000 people in The Netherlands are using cannabis (marijuana, hashish). During any year some 40.000 people are suffering from eating disorders, such as Anorexia Nervosa or bulimia. An estimated 32.000 people are addicted to heroin, and sex addiction is prevalent in approximately 300.000 men and 80.000 women.  2% of the population in The Netherlands (app. 300.000 people) are ‘shopaholics’

Although some people may be affected by more than one type of addiction or compulsion, and although I expected the numbers to be high, these numbers astounded me.

In other European countries and in the United States the statistics show a similar massive prevalence of addiction and compulsive behavior.

According to a report by the USDHSS heavy drinking was reported by 5.7 percent of the US population aged 12 or older, or 12.9 million people”. Between 19,5 and 25 million Americans use illegal drugs. Sex addiction affects 18 to 24 million people, and 3 million Americans meet the criteria for pathological gambling. According to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 4.7 million Americans used prescription drugs non-medically and an estimated 17 million Americans suffer from compulsive shopping.

Many other forms of addiction or compulsion are not included in these statistics; as stated, these do not include addiction related physical disease, nor stress induced diseases such as strokes or heart attacks.

It is important to realize that these data do not take into account how these addictions and diseases indirectly cause suffering in the lives of spouses, children, parents, family, friends, colleagues and team members of the individuals concerned. It is generally accepted that addiction in an individual directly affects at least 4 people who are close to the addict.

We don’t need any more statistics than these to be able to determine how vast and widely spread the problem of addiction is and how it causes people to suffer in staggering numbers all over the world.Virtually all of us have to deal with addiction.

Suffering and sickness are the rule, and not the exception.  We are both on an individual level and collectively a bunch of unhappy people. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could begin to end this suffering. And doesn’t it make sense to begin by ending it in our own personal life.

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