Drug Abuse Statistics

Read on to learn about drug abuse and how to recover from this disorder.

Understanding Drug Abuse

Most people focus on drug abuse with a narrow lens. Much of the attention target the person with the substance abuse problem, but the truth is that drug abuse is everyone’s problem. Drug addiction affects society as a whole, and we all influence drug abuse statistics. What’s even more essential is that we are also part of the solution.

Drug abuse is not a lack of self-control or a moral failing. Rather, drug abuse, also known as substance abuse or substance use disorder (SUD), is a pattern of substance use resulting in negative consequences. Despite these negative consequences, the person with the substance use disorder continues to do drugs.1


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What is Drug Abuse?

The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes drug abuse as a disease. Under their current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, known as the DSM-5 manual, substance dependence qualifies as:

A cluster of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms indicating continued use of a substance despite significant substance-related problems. There is a pattern of repeated substance ingestion resulting in tolerance, withdrawal symptoms if use is suspended, and an uncontrollable drive to continue use.2

In short, substance abuse means a person continues to use drugs, even when drug use ruins their lives.

Commonly Abuse Substances

Drugs that have the potential for abuse include illegal substances like: 3
However, substance abuse can also occur with prescription drugs. Some people are prescribed drugs by a health professional, but they take the drugs in a way other than prescribed, including snorting, crushing, or injecting drugs meant to take orally.

Some individuals obtain medications prescribed to other people, thus using the drug illegally. Opioids, for example, are drugs that have a high potential for substance abuse and are typically prescribed for severe pain. If opioids are used for extended periods differently than they’re prescribed, drug dependence can occur.

Some drugs are available for purchase over-the-counter (OTC), which means that a person doesn’t need a prescription to obtain the medication from the store. Medicines for cough, allergies, or pain purchased over-the-counter can still be misused, thus leading to drug abuse.

How Does Drug Abuse Affect Society?

Drug abuse is dangerous, not just for the person misusing the drug. The harm from drug abuse extends to family, friends, and society as a whole. When it comes to drug abuse, there are costs, and the prices aren’t only monetary. Drug abuse costs lives, destroys familial and community bonds, and erodes societal trust and productivity.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the cumulative effects of drug abuse and addiction to tobacco and alcohol cost the United States over $740 billion each year due to crime, lost work productivity, and health care. The abuse of prescription opioids, on its own, accounts for over $78 billion, with approximately $26 billion of that money in healthcare costs.4

These costs are monetary funds that could be allocated to other needs, such as education, food, and preventative healthcare. Instead, $740 billion of the nation’s money is diverted to the cost of drug abuse.4

Reviewing the Stats

Substance abuse utilizes healthcare, often in areas that could be used for other treatments. For example, United States drug abuse statistics show:
To fight against drug abuse, taxpayers’ money is necessary. To highlight this fact, in 2020, the National Drug Control Budget asked for $34.6 billion to combat drug use. The money was allocated to five areas: law enforcement, prevention, treatment, operations, and interdiction. Some examples of funds include:

What Are The Causes Of Drug Abuse?

Drug addiction can happen to anyone. However, some factors can increase a person’s risk for addiction, such as: 5
Childhood poverty and trauma are risk factors for drug abuse, and early prevention is crucial for reducing the risk of future addiction. Exposure to more risks increases a child’s chances of developing a substance abuse problem. Fortunately, these risks can be balanced by protective factors. Protective factors help to reduce or prevent harm. A few protective factors that prevent drug abuse are:

Why Is Drug Abuse A Problem?

Drug Abuse Statistics
Drug abuse poses a problem from an individual level to a global extent. For example, parental drug abuse statistics indicate that children from families with addiction are more likely to suffer mental health issues in the future. At the individual and family level, addiction can lead to:
At a community, societal, and global context, drug abuse causes:

Signs Of Drug Abuse

Individuals who misuse illegal or prescription drugs often show signs of abuse. Common symptoms of drug abuse are:

Research shows only one in ten people receive professional assistance for drug abuse, but treatment and support have been effective in treating addiction. Early intervention when drug use is suspected can prevent other adverse outcomes. Family members and loved ones should always look for signs of drug abuse. Anyone can become addicted to drugs, so being aware of the signs can help save someone’s life.6

Drug Addiction Statistics

In general, drug abuse is detrimental to both the individual and the community. However, every drug is different, and its impact can vary. Opioids, for example, have a higher overdose death rate due to the drug’s effects on breathing and heart rate. The following are a few drug and alcohol abuse statistics relating to the most common drug categories.

Opioid Drug Abuse Statistics

All drugs that have the same effects and are chemically similar to those from the opium poppy plant are called opioids. The most widely known opioids are natural opioids like codeine and morphine. Oxycodone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone are examples of semi-synthetic opioids. Drugs like methadone, tramadol, and fentanyl are synthetic opioids. Heroin is considered an illegal opioid and is not used for medical purposes.

Learn the Stats About Opioid Addiction

Opioids have become well-known due to the current opioid pandemic in the U.S. The statistics on prescription drug abuse show that the widespread misuse of narcotic painkillers has led to a drastic rise in opioid abuse within the past two decades. Prescription opioid abuse data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) shows:7

Opioids have a direct impact on the brain and bodily functions. Because opioids affect brain chemistry, they are highly addictive. Furthermore, opioids slow breathing and heart rate — sometimes to dangerous levels — resulting in drug overdoses.

Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Although alcohol is widely available and considered legal to purchase after the age of twenty-one, it is still a substance with a potential for abuse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 85.6% of people ages eighteen and older have consumed alcohol at some point in their life.8 This number shows how prevalent alcohol use is and how it can lead to alcohol addiction.

Learn the Stats About Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction can result in chronic health conditions like liver disease and cognitive decline. In addition, alcohol also lowers inhibition and increases risk-taking behavior, making it more likely for individuals to misuse other drugs. The following are statistics from the NIAAA regarding alcohol use:8
Because alcohol use is an accepted social activity, alcohol addiction may not be readily apparent. However, alcohol misuse can lead to a lifetime of the following conditions:

Heroin Drug Abuse Statistics

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies heroin as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, designating heroin as illegal with no legitimate medical use. Due to the rise in opioid use, heroin addiction has risen in the last decade. Heroin use is tied so closely with prescription opioid misuse that obtaining recent statistics on heroin alone can prove challenging.

Learn the Stats About Heroin Addiction

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, statistics on drug addiction of heroin include:9

Stimulants Drug Abuse Statistics

Like opioids, stimulants come in both legal and illegal categories. Illegal stimulants include drugs like cocaine. Examples of prescription stimulants are Adderall and Dexedrine. Many diet aids include stimulants, such as Fastin and Preludin.

Learn the Stats About Stimulant Addiction

Stimulant drug addiction statistics from the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) show:10

Methamphetamine Drug Addiction Statistics

Classified as a stimulant, methamphetamine is highly addictive and impacts the central nervous system. It comes in a white powder that dissolves in alcohol or water. Classified as a Schedule II stimulant by the FDA, the drug is highly regulated. Rarely prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and weight-loss treatments, methamphetamine is only dispensed in nonrefillable amounts.

Learn the Stats About Methamphetamine Addiction

Methamphetamine is often mistaken for amphetamine, but they are different in that methamphetamine is a much more powerful substance. Methamphetamine’s harmful effects on the central nervous system make it a dangerous drug with a high potential abuse resulting in these statistics:

Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

As noted earlier, prescription drug abuse plays a large role in many cases of addiction. Although much of the attention focuses on prescription opioid abuse, prescription drug abuse can include any drug misused routinely.

If a medication is not taken the way it’s prescribed, the person is misusing the medication. Misuse includes taking a drug for reasons that the drug was not prescribed for, or by taking medication that was prescribed to another person. The National Institute on Drug Abuse identifies three drugs most prone to being misused:11

Learn the Stats About Prescription Drug Addiction

Drug addiction statistics data from the NIDA demonstrate the prevalence of prescription drug abuse among people aged twelve or older in 2020:12
Prescription drug abuse statistics show that misusing prescription drugs can result in fatalities:12

Drug Abuse Statistics by Age, State, and Gender

Drug Abuse Statistics by Age, State, and Gender
Drug abuse impacts individuals and communities differently, depending on surrounding factors. For example, drug abuse statistics in the United States show:

Drug Abuse Statistics by Age

Drug use is highest among young adults ages eighteen to twenty-five (39%), with adults aged twenty-six to twenty-nine coming in second (34%). For teenage drug abuse statistics, about 47% of adolescents have tried some type of illegal drug before graduating from high school.

Drug abuse statistics indicate that early exposure to drugs increases the risk of drug use. For example, 70% of people who try drugs before the age of thirteen go on to develop a drug abuse problem within the next seven years. On the other hand, 27% of people who try drugs for the first time after seventeen years of age go on to develop an addiction.

Older adults are not immune to drug abuse. The drug-related death rate for people over fifty rises 3% every year. Drug abuse statistics show that approximately 6% of drug-related deaths in people over fifty included cocaine and amphetamines.

For drug abuse in college students, statistics show that they drank less in 2019 but increased their marijuana use. More strikingly, the use of LSD and other hallucinogens rose from 5% in 2015 to 9% in 2019.13

Drug Abuse Statistics at the State Level

West Virginia holds the highest rate of drug overdose deaths at 51.5 in 100,000 people. Delaware comes in second at 43.8 deaths for every 100,000. Although drug abuse is more prevalent in heavily populated areas, rural areas also remain affected. For example, 70% of law enforcement see fentanyl as a threat to their communities.

Drug Abuse Statistics by Gender

Drug abuse is more likely to affect young adult males rather than females. Almost 22% of males, compared to 17% of females, have misused illicit (illegal) drugs.14

Only about 20% of people in drug addiction treatment are women, as women may have more immediate sources of support than men — mitigating their need for treatment. The misuse of opioids is about equal in both men and women, with 4% of men and 3.5% of women abusing opioids.14

Men and women utilize stimulants differently. About 0.8% of males and 0.4% of females take methamphetamines. Approximately 2.6% of males but only 1.5% of females use cocaine.14

Drug Abuse Statistics through General Demographics

Roughly 5% of rural areas used illegal drugs, as compared to 20.2% in urban areas. Veterans have a higher rate of drug abuse compared to the general population. For example, 7% of veterans misuse drugs compared to 5.3% of the civilian population.

Approximately 505,000 veterans misuse prescription opioids, and 59,000 use heroin. More expensive “club drugs” are common with higher-income drug users, like ecstasy, LSD, and cocaine.

Lower-income drug users gravitate towards inhaling paint thinner and gasoline. Moreover, drug abuse statistics indicate about 7% of LGBT+ individuals struggle with drug abuse.

Drug Overdose Death Rates

The ultimate tragic result of drug abuse is fatalities. Although drug abuse can certainly lead to criminal behavior, suicide, or homicide, a drug overdose is tragic because they are typically accidental. An overdose can occur with most drugs of abuse. However, the statistics of drug abuse show opioids are the drugs that should concern public health experts the most when it comes to drug overdose deaths.15

Drug Overdose Statistics by State

Opioid Overdose Death Rates

Overdose Deaths Among Demographics

Drug overdose deaths occur at varying rates in specific demographics. The following reflects one example of how disparities and demographics can affect opioid abuse

A study published in 2021 in the American Journal of Public Health found that opioid deaths within the black community rose by 38%, despite robust efforts to prevent and treat opioid abuse. The highest increases in opioid deaths in blacks were found in Kentucky, with a 46% increase. Ohio came in second with a 45% increase. No increases were found in any other racial demographics.18

Drug Abuse Rehab

Drug Abuse Rehab
Drug addiction is not a failure of character, it is a disease that requires close support and supervision to recover from.

Detoxification (Detox)

Detox is the first step to overcoming an addiction. Abstaining from the drug can bring about withdrawal symptoms, which is how the body rids itself of accumulated residue and toxins from the drugs. For many individuals, drug detox is distressing and challenging, both physically and mentally. Cravings for the drug may be overwhelming, and — depending on the type of drug that was used — the following physical symptoms may occur:
Withdrawal symptoms depend on a variety of factors like the types of drugs that were used, how long the addiction lasted, and the current medical status of the individual.

Most drug withdrawals are difficult, but not dangerous. However, medical intervention is necessary in some cases of withdrawals — as in the case of alcohol or opioid addictions. Therefore, a safe drug detox under the supervision of trained professionals is recommended.

Drug detox can be performed either in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Sadly, data shows only 11.6% of addiction treatment facilities have outpatient detox as an option. The good news is that 95.8% of drug treatment facilities offer opioid detox services. With the rise in opioid overdose deaths, these services are needed now more than ever.19

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Drug addiction treatment statistics show that medication-assisted treatment (MAT) increases by 13% annually, indicating a growing acceptance of the treatment. Medication-assisted treatment, more commonly known as MAT, incorporates medication into the detox and rehabilitation process alongside counseling therapies.

MAT treatment eases an individual’s cravings and addresses the physical discomfort that can accompany drug recovery. Most people link MAT to opioid addiction treatments like methadone, and for good reason. SAMHSA endorses MAT as an effective intervention for options addiction and can boost the chances for long-term recovery.

However, MAT is also used to assist people with :

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

The cornerstone of most addiction programs are treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). These interventions ensure that individuals make the lifestyle changes necessary for a long-lasting recovery. CBT is based on core principles such as:
A patient works individually or in a group with a therapist to identify patterns of harmful thinking and behaving. Once identified, individuals can reevaluate their approach and change their behaviors to obtain positive results. A large portion of CBT includes incorporating what is learned during therapy into a person’s daily life.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT and based on many of its original concepts. The word “dialectic” comes from the evaluation of opposing viewpoints until the truth becomes apparent, usually used in philosophy.20

Much of DBT lies in emotional exploration through the confrontation of emotions, analysis of their presence, and the utilization of coping skills to manage them. By recognizing, understanding, and managing their emotions through DBT, individuals can better manage their tendencies towards drug abuse and addiction.

Get Help for Addiction Today

A professional drug use rehab facility offers individuals looking to recover from alcohol or drug addiction a safe and supportive space. An environment filled with trained professionals to help a person through detox and rehabilitation can make the recovery process more comfortable.

The ideal rehab center individualizes its care to fit a person’s needs, creating a treatment plan that caters to their struggles. Choosing the rehab facility that suits a person’s needs might take reaching out to the facility itself and discussing the severity of the addiction and treatment goals.

Finding the right help for addiction is the first step to being free from drug abuse. A team of caring and compassionate treatment professionals can support you or your loved one through rehabilitation. To get more information about getting help for addiction, contact Concise Recovery today. Our team will help you heal and regain control of your life.