With the emergence of new street drugs and the legalization of marijuana in the United States, community members often ask Triumph and its staff the same question

What is the most prevalent substance that clients use?

Michelle Roberts collects supplies for Triumph clients. Roberts and the rest of Triumph's chemical dependency counselors work daily to promote awareness about alcoholism.

Michelle Roberts collects supplies for Triumph clients. Roberts and the rest of Triumph’s chemical dependency counselors work daily to promote awareness about alcoholism.

Chemical dependency counselors find themselves answering this question relatively quickly because there is one substance that is both readily available and often-used.

“I can’t say that alcohol is always involved, but it lowers the inhibitions to try other drugs,” said Michelle Roberts, a counselor at Triumph. “We have seen alcohol be the gateway back to use of [clients’] primary substance.”

According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention study from April 2014, people in the United States spent more than $223 billion on alcohol in 2006 alone.

A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that in 2014 people in the U.S. spent $24 billion on addressing alcohol-related health issues, as well.

And people are reporting alcohol use before other substances.

The 2014 Global Drug Survey showed that 90.8 percent of 78,819 respondents had consumed alcohol in the past year.

The second-most used substance? Tobacco, with 56.7 percent, according to the same report.

With states like Colorado and Washington passing legalized marijuana legislation in recent years, Roberts also noted a common misconception about drug treatment.

“People often think [of] marijuana as the gateway drug, when alcohol could just as easily be a gateway drug,” she said. “Alcohol is usually left in the house and everyone has access to it, in turn making it easier for teens, or younger, to experiment with drinking before they even try marijuana.”

Given that alcohol use is so common, Roberts said it’s important that people understand the effect it has on not just the individual, but also the people with whom the individual interacts on a daily basis.

“For family members, they need to remember to take care of themselves and remember that it’s OK to feel scared, helpless and frustrated,” she said.

And an addict’s support system must realize that recovery is a never-ending journey.

“The addiction didn’t happen overnight, so the healing process won’t happen overnight,” she said. “The disease of addiction is incurable. It can be assisted into remission, much like a cancer. But, unfortunately, addiction is there forever.”

That’s where agencies like Triumph come in. Triumph’s continuum of care model focuses on addressing chemical dependency, preparing chemically dependent people with tools to recover and facilitating after care options that allow for sustainable recovery.

“The addict must take strides daily to remain in remission,” Roberts said. “It would be like telling a cancer patient, ‘just will yourself better.’ They can’t—they aren’t in control. Same with the addict.”


April is the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence’s Alcoholism Awareness Month. Triumph and its staff believe in being responsive to chemical dependency needs. If you, a friend or loved one would like to seek recovery from your dependency on drugs, alcohol or gambling, please call us at (509) 248-1800.