12 Minutes

Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Each year, addiction affects the lives of millions of people of Americans. Every year, tens of thousands of individuals take alcohol or drugs for the first time, irrespective of age, religion, race, socioeconomic status, or any other observable demographic. In addition, millions more are still struggling with alcohol, opioid, prescription drug, or illegal substance addiction.

Sadly, addiction transcends all barriers. Overdoses annually claim the lives of millions of parents, friends, coworkers, and even children. 

Dark-haired, man lying on the table, in the kitchen with pills spilled from a bottle

The world is under a silent mental health and drug addiction crisis. The statistical data is an open proof of this claim. It is pertinent to mention here that as heartbreaking as it might sound but drug addiction statistics are expected to be worse looking forward.

So what are the statistics of drug addiction and the estimated numbers? Even though many addiction statistics are well-known, analyzing annual data helps to shed light on some of the most prevalent challenges associated with alcohol and drug addiction and drug rehabilitation.

In 2017, based on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American individuals (12 years and older) struggled with an addiction to illicit substances or a substance use disorder.

In 2017, over 74 percent of persons with a drug use problem suffered from an alcohol use disorder.

In 2017, over 38 percent of adults struggled with an illicit substance use disorder.

In the same year, 1 in 8 adults concurrently struggled with drug and alcohol use issues.

In 2017, 8.5 million adults in the US suffered from co-occurring disorders, or substance use and mental health disorders

In terms of healthcare costs, missed work performance, and crime-related expenses, addiction, and drug abuse cost the American economy more than $740 billion yearly.

Despite global efforts, current data suggests that the estimated numbers and drug addiction statistics in 2023 will rise manifold.

Substance abuse is frequent among many age categories, may vary by gender or sex, and can vary based on geographic region. Since drug abuse can differ, it is essential to monitor how substances are consumed and their repercussions. The sections that follow examine rates and data of drug addiction in the US by demography.

Drug Abuse Among Age Groups

According to drug abuse statistics, there are age differences in substance addiction. For illustration, substance abuse statistics suggest:

  • By the time adolescents and teens finish high school, 47 percent of teens report using illegal substances.
  • The prevalence of drug usage is greatest among individuals aged 18 to 25, at 39 percent, compared to those aged 26 to 29, at 34 percent.
  • There is a low incidence of substance abuse among those aged 50 and older: 2.6 percent report utilizing marijuana in the last year and 0.4 percent report using cocaine.
  • In a given year, approximately 62 percent of adults aged 65 and older consumed alcohol on at least 30 occasions.
  • Ninety-three percent of college students who report taking illegal drugs say using marijuana.
  • Thirty-five percent of college students who use drugs report taking cocaine, and 36 percent use hallucinogens.

Drug Abuse Among States

States may differ in their substance use. Western and Midwestern states have some of the highest rates of a drug overdose, according to drug use statistics.

West Virginia has the highest overdose fatality rate in the US, with 51.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

  • Maryland: 37.2 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants.
  • Delaware has 43,8 deaths per 100,000 individuals.
  • Ohio: 35.9 fatalities per 100,000 people.
  • Pennsylvania: 36.1 fatalities per 100,000 persons.

Abuse Of Drugs By Gender

According to drug use statistics, substance abuse may vary based on a person’s age or gender. For example:

  • 22 percent of men report drug use within the past year.
  • 17 percent of women report drug use within the past year.
  • Males report smoking marijuana at a rate of 18.5 percent, while females report usage at a rate of 13.5 percent.
  • Males report misusing painkillers at a rate of 3.9 percent, while females report misusing painkillers at a rate of 3.4 percent.
  • Cocaine abuse is reported by 1.5 percent of females compared to 2.6 percent of males.
  • Only 20 percent of substance addiction treatment patients are female.

The rate of parental alcohol or other drugs (AOD) addiction as a reason for child removal and placing them in out-of-home care has climbed from 2000 to 2019, according to these data. 2000 statistics indicate a high prevalence of 18.5 percent. This climbed by 20.4 percent in 2019 to reach 38.9 percent.

About 7.5 million children under the age of 17 (10.5%) lived in families with at least one parent who had an AUD. Every year, an average of 1.2 million children ages 0 to 2 (10.1 percent of this age category), 1.2 million children ages 3 to 5 (9.9% of this age bracket), 2.4 million children ages 6 to 11 (10.2% of this age cohort), and 2.7 million children ages 12 to 17 (11.3%) lived with at least one parent with an AUD.

Nearly fifty percent of the children below the age of 1 who were taken away from their homes and placed into foster care were removed due to parental AOD abuse. The number of children older than 1 (36.1 percent) was closer to the national average (38.9 percent) than the percentage of children younger than 1.

The proportion of children in foster care due to a parent with a substance use disorder increased from 30.7 percent in 2012 to 35.5 percent in 2016. This is the most notable increase of any cause for a child’s removal to date.

Up to 41 percent of children in out-of-home care are below the age of 5, which accounts for the majority of youngsters removed from a home with addiction issues.

In addition, it is fairly uncommon for other members of the family to intercede when children in a family with addiction difficulties may be at risk. While this is essential for safeguarding the well-being and security of the child, it poses a risk to the substance-abusing parent.

From 2000 to 2018, the proportion of children under the age of one in out-of-home care climbed steadily. The data from Fiscal Year 2019 revealed a modest decrease, a 0.2 percent decline. In 2000, children under 1 accounted for 13.4 percent of all removals; in the most recent fiscal year, this proportion grew to 18.7 percent of all removals.

The data relating age of removal were categorized into 3 age groups: children ages 0 to 5, 6 to 12, and 13 and above. In Fiscal Year 2019, children ages 0 to 5 make up nearly half (48.6 percent, N=122,585) of the children who were removed from their homes and placed in care outside the home. During the same period, 28.8 percent (N=72,781) of the children taken from their families and placed in out-of-home care were children ages 6 to 12, while 22.6 percent (N=56,924) were youth ages 13 to 18 and older.

Facts And Statistics Regarding Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is the most often abused drug in the United States, however, alcoholism is frequently left untreated. Alcoholism can have negative effects on a person’s mental, physical, and social health.

  • Alcohol is responsible for 5.3 percent of global deaths annually (or 1 in every 20).
  • Approximately 300 million people worldwide have an alcohol consumption disorder.
  • Every day, on average, 30 US adults die in alcohol-related auto accidents and 6 adults die from alcohol poisoning.
  • In the U.S., over 88,000 individuals die annually due to alcohol.
  • About 6 percent of American adults, or over 15 million persons, have an alcohol use disorder; however, only about 7 percent of these individuals receive treatment.
  • Men aged 18 to 25 are more prone to engage in binge drinking and develop alcoholism.

Facts And Statistics Regarding Opioid Abuse

Opioids are a group of medications that inhibit pain sensations and induce euphoria. They are harmful due to the extremely high risk of overdose and addiction they pose. Opioids are an element in a variety of painkillers.

  • Because they are controlled drugs, they are also sold illegally by drug traffickers.
  • Opioids, both prescribed and illegal, have contributed to a rise in mortality in the United States during the previous two decades.
  • Every day, over 130 Americans die from an opiate overdose.
  • Since 1999, sales of opioid painkillers have increased by 300 percent.
  • Approximately 20 to 30 percent of those who are prescribed Opioids will abuse them.
  • About 10 percent of those who abuse prescription opioids develop an addiction.
  • About 2.1 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder.
  • Approximately 5 percent of those with an opioid use disorder will experiment with Heroin.

Facts And Statistics Regarding Heroin Abuse

Heroin is a very potent and addictive Opioid. It is an illicit substance that offers grave overdose hazards. Heroin, particularly Heroin combined with Fentanyl (a very potent Synthetic Opioid), has been a key contributor to the United States’ opioid epidemic.

  • Approximately 0.3 percent of American adults use Heroin.
  • Each year there are approximately 100,000 new heroin users.
  • More than 28 percent of 2019’s fatal opioid overdoses were attributable to Heroin.
  • As a result of using habits and Narcan, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths decreased by 6 percent between 2018 and 2019.
  • In 2019, there were 14,019 heroin-related overdose deaths.
  • Even though the death rate has decreased recently, it nearly quadrupled between 2010 and 2019.

Facts And Statistics Regarding Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana is a psychotropic substance derived from a plant containing THC. It is becoming increasingly permitted in the United States, both for medical and recreational use, but it is not entirely safe because it may be addictive and cause health issues.

  • Approximately 30-40 million adults in the US smoke marijuana annually.
  • About 43 percent of adult Americans claim to have tried marijuana.
  • Approximately 30 percent of frequent Marijuana users have a Marijuana use disorder.
  • In 1990, the typical Marijuana batch had less than 4 percent THC, however, that figure is now over 13%.
  • Roughly 10 percent of all marijuana users will develop an addiction.
  • Approximately 17 percent of those who begin drug use as minors become addicted.

Facts And Statistics Regarding Nicotine Abuse

As of 2019, anyone above the age of 21 in the United States can purchase cigarettes without difficulty. While cigarettes are lawful and easily accessible, they cause numerous fatal diseases and are addictive.

  • Approximately 34 million Americans are smokers.
  • Every day, approximately 1,600 adolescents consume their first cigarette.
  • Approximately 15 percent of American males and 13 percent of American women are cigarette smokers.
  • People with disabilities, those living below the poverty line, and those without a college degree are more inclined to smoke cigarettes.
  • Over sixteen million Americans suffer from a smoking-related disease.
  • In the U.S., cigarette smoking is the reason for about 480,000 deaths every year.

Facts And Statistics About Cocaine Addiction And Abuse 

Cocaine is a prohibited stimulant. Cocaine, whether in powder or crystal form (often referred to as “Crack”), can induce organ damage, mental issues, and respiratory failure. Cocaine is incredibly addicting as well. Some cocaine users may develop an addiction after a single dose.

  • About 5 million Americans regularly use cocaine.
  • In 2020, just under 2 percent of eighth graders had tried cocaine.
  • In 2020, approximately 1 percent of eighth graders used Crack.
  • Since 2013, cocaine-related fatalities have increased annually.
  • In 2018, there were 14,667 such deaths.
  • American individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 are the most likely age group to take cocaine.

Facts And Statistics Regarding Methamphetamine Abuse

Methamphetamine, sometimes known as Meth, is a restricted narcotic with a significant overdose, abuse, and addiction potential. Meth is typically offered as “Crystal” (white rocks or shards) to be burned and smoked as a controlled substance. Meth is extremely addicting and hazardous to one’s health.

  • About 774,000 Americans regularly use methamphetamine. Approximately 16,000 of them are between 12 and 17 years of age.
  • In 2019, the DEA acquired nearly 117,000 pounds of methamphetamine.
  • About 964,000 Americans are Meth-dependent.
  • In the first six months of 2019, DEA-tested meth had an average purity of 97.2 percent.
  • In 2020, slightly more than 1 percent of eighth graders had used meth.
  • From 2015 to 2019, the number of deadly meth overdoses nearly tripled.

Facts And Statistics Regarding Hallucinogen Abuse

Hallucinogens are a class of medications that affect the mind. Hallucinogens include Psilocybin mushrooms, Mescaline, DMT, PCP, LSD, Ecstasy, Ketamine, and Salvia. All of these substances are prohibited and entail the danger of traumatic hallucinations, poor judgment, and addiction.

  • Approximately 1.4 million Americans are frequent hallucinogen users.
  • About 143,000 of them are between 12 and 17 years old.
  • As of 2020, over 8 percent of all 12th-grade students had used hallucinogenic drugs at least once.
  • Johns Hopkins received $17 million from donors for the investigation of hallucinogen therapy.
  • Approximately twenty million Americans have used LSD.

Facts And Statistics Regarding Inhalant Abuse

Inhalants are a class of gases, solvents, and aerosol sprays that are inhaled to achieve intoxication. Inhalants are commonplace items such as nail paint, glue, leather cleaner, and hairspray but they contain mind-altering properties. “Huffing” Inhalants can induce unconsciousness or addiction.

  • At least once in their lifetimes, about 23 million Americans have used an inhalant.
  • About 556,000 Americans use inhalants regularly.
  • In 2018, over 9 percent of the total 12th graders admitted using an inhalant.
  • Each year, inhalants lead to around 15 percent of suffocation deaths.

Accidental drug overdose is the top cause of death among individuals under 45 years old. Over 70,000 deaths from drug overdoses occur annually in the United States. The incidence of overdose deaths grows by 4 percent every year.

From 2012 to 2015, synthetic opiate drug (other than methadone) deaths increased by 264 percent in the United States. In the United States, approximately 700,000 deaths occurred from drug overdoses between 1999 and 2017.

In 2017, 67.8 percent of the 70,237 fatal drug overdoses were connected to opioids, including:

  • There were 28,466 deaths linked to fentanyl.
  • There were 17,029 deaths attributed to prescription opioids.
  • 15,482 deaths were attributed to heroin use.
  • Between 2017 and 2018, deaths caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, and tramadol climbed by 10 percent.

As a result of opioid overdose deaths, the median life expectancy in the US fell between 2015 and 2017, rebounding by only 0.16 percent to 78.93 years in 2019.

In 2019, clinics specializing in pain management, primary care, or substance addiction issues witnessed dramatic rises in positive urine drug tests. Four percent of urine tests were positive for methamphetamine, rising from 1.4 percent in 2013. Five percent of urine tests tested positive for fentanyl, increasing from 1 percent in 2013.



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