USA Addiction Statistics

Drug abuse and addiction are overwhelming health care issues in the United States. The most unbiased way to understand the scope of drug use in the U.S. is to look at the numbers. There are many statistics to show just how dangerous and widespread drug use and alcohol addiction are in the U.S.

General Addiction Statistics

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), nearly half of all people 12 and older in the United States have used an illicit substance at least once.

Below are some facts and statistics about just how prevalent substance abuse and addiction are today:

  • Since 2000, nearly 1 million people have died of a drug overdose
  • As of 2020, over 37 million people 12 and older actively used illicit substances
  • 13.5% of Americans 12 and older have used drugs in the past 30 days
  • 25.4% of all users of illicit drugs suffer from drug dependency or addiction
  • Of the nearly 140 million people 12 and older who drink alcohol, over 20% of them suffer from alcohol abuse or addiction
  • Drug abuse and addiction cost the United States over $700 billion annually in healthcare expenses, crime-related costs, and lost workplace productivity
  • Research shows that about 50% of individuals with a diagnosed mental illness will also struggle with substance abuse at some point in their lives, and vice versa

Types of Drugs Being Abused

Amongst the U.S. population, alcohol, prescription drugs, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin are the most commonly abused substances.

Below are some facts about these and other substances from 2020 (note these statistics pertain to those 12 and older):

  • Nearly 50 million people used marijuana, making it the most commonly used illicit substance (despite being legal in some states)
  • 3.7% of Americans misused central nervous system stimulants (CNS) over 12 months
  • Of the roughly 10.3 million people who abused CNS, about 32% only used cocaine, about 32% only used prescription stimulants, and about 12% only used methamphetamine.
  • 9.5 million people abused opioids, with nearly 98% of those people using prescription pain killers as their opioid of choice
  • Roughly 2.7 million people suffer from opioid addiction
  • 28.3 million people suffered from some form of an alcohol use disorder

The US Opioid Crisis

The United States is currently facing a major opioid crisis, with a reported 2.1 million Americans suffering from opioid use disorder. Research shows that up to 30% of individuals who take prescription opioids misuse them by taking more than their dosage suggests in one sitting or taking them to feel high.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that heroin use has increased over the last 20 years.

Drug Abuse and Addiction by Ethnicity

Substance abuse and addiction affect everyone and every culture differently. Everything from where a person grew up to the environment they grew up in can play a vital role in developing a substance abuse problem.

Caucasian

  • In 2018, 7.7% of all Caucasians 12 and older suffered from a substance abuse issue
  • In 2018, 35,000 Caucasian people died of an opioid overdose
  • 20.2% of all Caucasians 12 and older have reported using illicit drugs, while 67% have reported drinking alcohol

Black

  • In 2018, close to 7% of all African Americans 12 and up suffered from substance abuse or addiction
  • 20.8% of all African Americans 12 and up have reported using an illicit substance, while nearly 60% have reported drinking alcohol
  • Despite these high numbers, close to 90% of African Americans who suffer from addiction don’t seek out or receive treatment

Hispanic

  • In 2018, 7.1% of all Hispanics 12 and older suffered from a substance abuse disorder
  • Nearly 60% of all Hispanics 12 and older have reported drinking alcohol, while 17.1% have reported using an illicit substance

Asian

  • In 2018, 4.8% of all Asian Americans 12 and up suffered from substance abuse or addiction
  • 53.6% of all Asian Americans 12 and older have reported drinking alcohol, while 11.2% have reported illicit drug use

Native American

  • In 2018, 10.1% of Native Americans 12 and older suffered from addiction, more than any other ethnicity
  • 55% of all Native Americans 12 and up have reported using alcohol, while 18.5% have reported using an illicit substance

Drug Abuse and Addiction by Age and Sex

Not only can a person’s ethnic and cultural background play a role in drug abuse and addiction, but so can their age and gender.

Men VS Women

  • 22% of males have reported using drugs in the past year compared to 17% of females
  • Marijuana was the most popular drug of use for both men and women (18.5% of males and 13.5% of females)
  • Heroin was the least popular drug of abuse for both men and women (.5% of men and >2% of women)
  • Women are more likely to use illicit substances with an intimate partner, whereas men are more likely to do so with friends
  • Women only account for roughly 20% of all people who are in drug treatment

Addiction Statistics in Women

Women tend to struggle with different issues than men, causing unique circumstances in their drug and alcohol use. One specific issue is how drug use can affect pregnancy.

Drug & Alcohol Abuse in Women in the U.S.(reported in 2019), of women with substance use disorders:

  • 2 in 5 (40.8%, or 2.9 million) women struggle with illicit drugs
  • 3 in 4 (72.55, or 5.2 million) women struggle with alcohol abuse
  • 1 in 8 (13.3%, or 56 thousand) women struggle with both

Drug & Alcohol Use in Pregnant Women in the U.S. (reported in 2019):

  • 5.8% or 120,000 used illicit drugs
  • 5.4% or 112,000 used marijuana
  • 9.6% or 198,000 used tobacco products
  • 9.5% or 197,000 used alcohol
  • 0.4% or 8,000 used opioids
  • 0.2% or 3,000 used cocaine

Adolescents (Under 18)

The highest rate of substance use disorders and illicit drug use disorders is among people ages 18 to 25.

Percent of People with Illicit Drug Use Disorder by Age:

  • 3% of all ages 12 and older
  • 3.6% of ages 12-17
  • 7.5% of ages 18-25
  • 2.3% of people 26 and older

Percent of People with a Substance Abuse Disorder by Age:

  • 7.4% of all ages 12 and older
  • 4.5% of ages 12-17
  • 14.1% of ages 18-25
  • 6.7% of people 26 and older

Drug and alcohol use is not only a problem for young adults. Adolescents also abuse drugs and alcohol.

Percent of Adolescents Who Have Used Various Drugs by Grade Level:

  • 21.3% of 8th graders, 37.3% of 10th graders, and 46.6% of 12th graders reported using illicit drugs.
  • 25.6% of 8th graders, 46.4% of 10th graders, and 61.5% of 12th graders reported using alcohol.
  • 11.5% of 8th graders, 13.9% of 10th graders, and 24% of 12th graders reported using cigarettes.
  • 24.1% of 8th graders, 41% of 10th graders, and 47.2% of 12th graders reported using some kind of vape.

Powerful Stats

  • In 2017, 1 in every 25 people (about 4%) under the age of 18 suffered from substance abuse
  • Of that 4%, roughly 3% suffered from drug addiction, while a little under 2% suffered from alcohol addiction
  • About 46% of teenagers have used a drug for the first time by the time they reach 12th grade

Young Adults (18 to 25)

  • Roughly 1 in 7, or 5.1 million, Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 dealt with addiction in 2017
  • Of those 5.1 million Americans, a little over 3 million suffered from alcohol abuse or addiction, and roughly 2 million suffered from drug addiction.

Adults (26 and Up)

  • About 6.4% of all Americans over the age of 26 suffered from substance abuse and addiction in 2017

Elderly Adults (65 and Over)

  • More than 1 million Americans over the age of 65 suffered from a substance abuse issue in 2017
  • Of those more than 1 million people, an overwhelming majority also suffered from a mental health disorder
  • Two-thirds of all Americans over the age of 65 who suffer from alcohol addiction developed said addiction before turning 65

Overdose Death Statistics

Over 96,000 people die from a drug overdose every year. While this number has always been relatively high, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased these numbers.

Below are some more facts and statistics about overdose deaths:

  • Opioids cause seven out of every ten overdose deaths
  • The number of overdose deaths in the U.S. increased by 29.6% in 2020
  • In January 2021, drug overdose deaths exceeded homicides by 306.7%
  • Men are more than 2x as likely to die from a drug overdose than women
  • The state of West Virginia has more drug overdose deaths per capita than any other state

United States Addiction Statistics

Here are some important statistics about substance use in the United States of America:

  • 841,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose.
  • 7.4% of people over age 12 have a substance use disorder
  • 3% of people over age 12 have an illicit drug use disorder.

What Types of Drugs do Americans Abuse Most?

Millions of Americans every year use potentially dangerous and addictive substances. Each of these drugs varies in side effects but can cause a substance use disorder.

Past Year Illicit Drug Use from Americans in 2019:

Not every drug user develops a substance use disorder, but many do.

Past Year Substance Use Disorders from Americans in 2019:

Alcohol use disorder is the most common substance abuse disorder. Many but not most people who abuse alcohol also abuse illicit drugs.

Data About the Overlap of Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use:

  • 14.5 million Americans have alcohol use disorder (71.1% of all people with substance use disorders)
  • 8.3 million Americans have an illicit drug use disorder (40.1% of all people with substance use disorders)
  • 2.4 million, or 11.8%, have both alcohol use disorder and illicit drug use disorder

USA Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Statistics

Substance use and mental illness are each difficult to deal with on their own and tend to correlate. People who suffer from mental illnesses are significantly more likely than those who don’t to use drugs.

3.6 million people suffer from both a substance use disorder and a serious mental illness or mental health crisis.

Past-year Illicit Drug Use by Mental Illness Status:

  • Only 16.6% of adults without any mental illness abused illicit drugs.
  • Meanwhile, at least 38.8% of adults with any type of mental illness abused illicit drugs.
  • At least 49.4% of adults with serious mental illness abused illicit drugs.

Past-year Alcohol Binging by Mental Illness Status:

  • 24.5% of those with no mental illness
  • 30.9% of those with any mental illness
  • 32.7% of those with a serious mental illness

Past-year Cigarette Use by Mental Illness Status:

  • 15.8% of those with no mental illness
  • 27.2% of those with any mental illness
  • 32.7% of those with a serious mental illness

Statistics in the LGBTQ+ Community

In 2019, 7.6 million Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) adults in the U.S. had a substance use disorder and/or a mental illness. 12.9% (1.9 million) of LGB adults had both a substance use disorder and a mental illness.

18.3% of LGB adults (2.6 million) had a substance use disorder.

Among LGB adults with a substance use disorder:

  • 1 in 2 (51.6% or 1.4 million) struggled with illicit drugs
  • 3 in 5 (64.6% or 1.7 million) struggled with alcohol use
  • 1 in 6 (16.2% or 426 thousand) struggled with both illicit drugs and alcohol

Get Drug Addiction Help Now

An estimated 7.8% of Americans need substance use disorder treatment. Only 1.5% actually receive treatment.

Help is available and accessible to those who need it. If you or a loved one need help please contact us as soon as possible. We can help you find the easiest, closest, and most affordable treatment that works for you.

Reviewed by:Chris Carberg

Addiction Guide Founder & Mental Health Advocate

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Chris Carberg is a visionary digital entrepreneur, the Founder of Addiction Guide, and a long-time recovering addict from prescription opioids, sedatives, and alcohol.  Over the past 15 years, Chris has worked as a tireless advocate for addicts and their loved ones, while becoming a sought-after digital entrepreneur. Chris is a storyteller and aims to share his story with others in the hopes of helping them achieve their own recovery.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

5 references
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 25). Data Overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/data/index.html

  2. Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Graphics from the Key Findings Report. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29393/2019NSDUHFFRBriefSlides082120.pdf

  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, May 26). Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/monitoring-future-study-trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs

  4. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Women. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31102/2019NSDUH-Women/Women%202019%20NSDUH.pdf

  5. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual (LGB) Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31104/2019NSDUH-LGB/LGB%202019%20NSDUH.pdf

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