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How Many People Are Addicted To Drugs In America

% Of People Who Have Abused Heroin Started By Abusing Prescription Opioids

Babies Born Addicted to Drugs and Dying Preventable Deaths | NBC Nightly News

Stats on heroin addiction rate report that 4%6% of people who suffer from prescription drug use disorder switch to heroin. However, heroin is usually the first opioid people use. To add, it enters the brain quickly and binds to opioid receptors, especially the ones located in areas that control heart rate, sleeping, and breathing, as well as the feelings of pain and pleasure.

In 10 Americans Report Having Resolved A Significant Substance Use Problem

The skyrocketing overdose rates make headlines daily, but what about all those entering into recovery?

This national study estimated the prevalence, pathways, and predictors of recovery from drug and alcohol problems.


There are approximately 20 million individuals in the US with a substance use disorder.


This study by Kelly and colleagues* added to the research in the area by investigating problem resolution using a nationally representative sample of US adults both geographically and demographically. This representative sample mapped onto eight demographic and geographic benchmarks in the US census .


How Many People In The Us Use Heroin

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

  • 0.2% of people aged 12 and older report using heroin in the past month
  • 0.4% reported using it in the past year
  • 1.8% reported using at least once in their lifetime

Despite slight variations from year to year, the use of heroin has increased over the past decade. One factor driving this increase has been transition from use of prescription opioids to heroin. Ninety-four percent of opioid-addicted people who switched from prescription opioids to heroin reported doing so because prescription opioids were far more expensive and harder to obtain. As a result, beginning in 2010, heroin overdose fatalities began increasing rapidly across the country while fatal overdoses involving prescription opioids began to level off and even declined slightly.

Deaths from heroin overdose nearly tripled from 2010 to 2013. However, it is important to note that the vast majority of people who have ever used opioids whether prescription medications or heroin never develop problematic use.

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How Many Americans Are Addicted To Drugs

When addressing the topic of how many Americans are addicted to drugs, it helps to look at the different types of substance use disorders.

Home » Resources » Help for Friends and Family » How Many Americans Are Addicted to Drugs?

Substance use problems are an ongoing concern throughout the United States. In the past, experts divided these problems into two separate categories: addiction and non-addiction abuse. However, today, substance issues get grouped together under a single heading known as substance use disorder. When addressing the topic of how many Americans are addicted to drugs, it helps to look at the different types of substance use disorders.

What About Relapse Rates

Fentanyl Overdoses and Addiction

Scientific American looks at the often-cited problem with formalized treatment programs: so many people who attend them suffer relapses. In examining the now-famous case of singer Amy Winehouse, who died from alcohol poisoning after years in which she cycled in and out of rehab, the magazine interviewed Bankole Johnson. Professor of neuroscience at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and author of Addiction Medicine, Johnson has worked on developing the latest generation of medication-based approaches to addiction. Johnson tells Scientific American that he believes traditional self-help rehabilitation referring to 12-Step and/or therapy programs that look askance at pharmaceutical solutions is not particularly effective. He feels that medicines should be in the treatment mix wherever they can be helpful.

When asked what he would call the medication-based approach, Johnson stressed that medications can often be more effective than psychological therapy on its own. Johnson also points out myths that tend to feed the self-help model, including the idea that one must hit rock bottom before entering treatment.

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Each Year Approximately 3040 Million Americans Use Marijuana By Smoking It

What is the most commonly used illicit drug among persons aged 12 and older? In 2017, about 1.2 million Americans aged 1217 and 525,000 over 26 years used marijuana for the first time. Marijuana is increasingly becoming legal across the United States, both for medical and recreational use, but it still isnt entirely secure because it can be addictive and cause health issues.

Statistics On Specific Population Demographics And Addiction

Adolescents :

  • In 2017, approximately 4% of the American adolescent population age 12 to 17 suffered from a substance use disorder this equals 992,000 teens or 1 in 25 people in this age group.1
  • About 443,000 adolescents age 12 to 17 had an alcohol use disorder in 2017, or 1.8% of adolescents.1
  • An estimated 741,000 adolescents suffered from an illicit drug use disorder in 2017, or about 3% of this population.1

Young adults aged 18-25:

  • About 5.1 million young adults age 18 to 25 battled a substance use disorder in 2017, which equates to 14.8% of this population and about 1 in 7 people.1
  • About 3.4 million young adults age 18 to 25 had an alcohol use disorder in 2017, or about 10% of young adults.1
  • About 2.5 million young adults had an illicit drug use disorder in 2017, or about 7.3% of this population.1
  • Heroin use among young adults between 18 and 25 years old doubled in the past decade.4

Over age 26:

  • Approximately 13.6 million adults age 26 or older struggled with a substance use disorder in 2017, or 6.4% of this age group.1
  • About 10.6 million adults age 26 and older had an alcohol use disorder in 2017, or about 5% of this age group.1
  • About 4.3 million adults age 26 or older had an illicit drug use disorder in 2017, or 2% of this age group.1

Elderly individuals:

Men vs. women:


Criminal justice/employment status:

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Does Substance Abuse Cause Homelessness

Substance abuse can be both the cause and the result of homelessness

Substance abuse can play a significant role in homelessness by making it difficult to perform well at a job. Job loss and chronic unemployment make it difficult to pay for housing, which can lead to eviction or foreclosure and eventually to homelessness. Addiction can exacerbate already existing financial problems and lead to loss of housing, as well.7

However, the National Coalition for the Homeless emphasizes that substance abuse can be both the cause and the result of homelessness, and that many people begin abusing alcohol or drugs after losing their homes in an attempt to cope with their situation. Unless substance abuse is treated, homeless persons are unlikely to regain the security or financial stability that can lead them out of poverty. 6

Having a substance use disorder can make it exceedingly difficult to for homeless people to find housing. Some housing assistance programs require that residents pass drug tests or enter and complete drug treatment before they can qualify for housing.8

Disease Burden From Substance Use Disorders

Top 10 Facts About Prescription Drug Abuse in America

1.5% of global disease burden results from alcohol and illicit drug addiction in some countries its over 5%

Using the measure of deaths fails to capture the full health consequences of substance use disorders. Drugs not only lead to death, but also to diseases and disabilities that impact peoples health.

To quantify full health impacts we can look at disease burden, measured in Disability-Adjusted Life Years DALYs. This metric considers not only death rates, but also years lived with disability or health burden.

In the map we see the share of disease burden attributed to substance use disorders. 1.5% of global disease burden is attributed to alcohol and illicit drug addiction.

In some countries this share is much higher: in the USA it accounts for more than 5% of disease burden.

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Why Do People With Substance Use Disorder Need More And More Drugs Over Time

People feel intoxicated after using drugs of abuse. Over time, the brain is changed by drugs of abuse. The brain becomes desensitized to the drug of abuse so that more of the drug must be used to produce the same effect.

As the person consumes more, drugs start to take over the persons life. One may stop enjoying other aspects of life. For many people, social, family and work obligations fall to the side. The person with SUD starts to feel like somethings wrong if he or she isnt under the influence of the substance. They may become consumed with the need to recapture that original feeling.

The Most Important Contribution Of This Study Is That It Provides The 1st Geo

Information on how and why these less severe individuals resolved their substance use problem, on the other hand, may be leveraged to help the 16 million individuals each year with a substance use disorder that seek no services whatsoever the vast majority of whom do not perceive a need for treatment but are nevertheless at risk for negative life consequences that can also put others around them at risk .



Kelly, J. F., Bergman, B. G., Hoeppner, B. B., Vilsaint, C. L., & White, W. L. . Prevalence and pathways of recovery from drug and alcohol problems in the United States population: Implications for practice, research, and policy.Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 181, 162-169. doi:

**Note: One or more authors of this study were Recovery Research Institute Staff, including the director and/or other research scientists. As with all summaries, staff made the greatest possible effort to recognize and account for any potential biases in the review of this article.

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What Is Treatment Success

The Scientific American article on relapse references an earlier SA article on do-it-yourself cures for addiction, which summarizes a critical problem when considering the various studies and their conflicting messages about treatment success:

The Spontaneous Recovery Studies suffer from differences in the definitions of important terms such as addiction, treatment and recovery. The use of reports of past behavior and relatively short follow-up periods are problematic as well.

In addition to issues about the nature of recovery, the final statement zeroes in on one of the biggest challenges to definitions of recovery and success: duration. How long must healthy or desired behavior be maintained for recovery to be called successful whether recovery is defined as abstinence or absence of certain problematic behaviors? This is difficult to answer because studies that look at 2-5 years out are rare relative to those that look within the first year of the designated conclusion of treatment. Is the thought of affording rehab preventing you or a loved one from finding treatment? Find out if your insurance may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab.

The Mentally Ill: The Backbone Of Americas Substance Abuse Issue

Americaâs Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription ...

Almost half of Americas substance abusers are also victims of mental disorders, or have developed them as a result of excessive drug use. Of 19.6 million adults with substance use disorders, 8.1 million of them had mental illnesses. This comes from a population of only 35.4 million Americans afflicted by mental illnesses meaning that almost a quarter of mentally unwell Americans abuse drugs. Summarized, we can see that a whopping 2.3% over one in fifty of the total American adult population, is struggling with co-occurring drug dependencies and mental illnesses.

There are addictions that run rampant as well, beyond those that are considered substance abuse issues by the DSM-IV.

  • Nicotine addiction, which can cause a physical dependence similar to other abused substances, has taken 55.1 million Americans.
  • Up to thirty percent of Americans might regularly drink more than six cups of coffee a day. eleven percent of America is addicted to sex, two percent is addicted to food, and two percent is addicted to gambling.

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Statistics On Cocaine Addiction And Abuse

Cocaine is an illegal Stimulant. Whether it comes in the form of powder or crystal , Cocaine can damage organs, provoke mental disorders, and cause respiratory failure. Cocaine is also highly addictive. Some Cocaine users may become addicted after using the drug only once.

  • About 5 million Americans are regular Cocaine users.
  • A little under 2% of 8th graders had used Cocaine as of 2020.
  • In 2020, almost 1% of 8th graders had used Crack.
  • Cocaine-related fatalities have grown every year since 2013.
  • There were 14,666 such deaths in 2018.
  • Americans between the ages of 18 to 25 use Cocaine more than any other age group.

Cocaine Abuse And Addiction Statistics

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that is illegal to buy, possess, and sell in the United States. In recent years, the rate of deaths involving cocaine has sharply increased.

About 1 in 10 drug-related deaths in the United States involve psychostimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, or amphetamine.

Overview of cocaine abuse rates:

  • About 671,000 people over the age of 12 started using cocaine in 2019.
  • Five and a half million people in the U.S. reported using cocaine at some time in the past year in 2019.
  • About one million people meet the criteria for cocaine use disorder.

Rates of cocaine-involved overdose deaths:

  • Cocaine-involved deaths increased by 26.5 percent in the June 2019-May 2020 study period from the previous year.
  • Cocaine-involved overdose deaths are driven largely by a combination of cocaine with synthetic opioids other than methadone.
  • Cocaine is involved in an estimated 1 in 5 drug overdose deaths.

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What The Data Tells Us About Drug Addiction In The Us

Letâs get right to the data. It says more than any words could say about the drug addiction crisis in America.

The CATG report tells us:

  • 23-million Americans suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. 1 in 10 Americans who have a drug or alcohol problem get the help they need to overcome it.
  • The number one reason for lack of treatment is the cost or lack of insurance. Even those getting treatment often pay out of pocket because insurance doesnât cover all of it.
  • Funding for addiction treatment often comes from the government. 77% of treatment costs are paid by local, state, and federal governments. Private insurance only covers about 10% of treatment costs in comparison.
  • Less than 7% of those with addiction issues were referred to treatment by primary healthcare providers.

Keep in mind the CATG report was released in 2010. It has been the standard for those lobbying for more federal resources for addiction treatment in the US. Another study of this magnitude with the specific goal of highlighting funding inequality has not been conducted since.

According to more recent statistics, we know:

The statistics donât lie. Substance abuse and alcohol dependency are on the rise year-over-year. This is a public health crisis.

Where Are People Getting Drugs

Afghanistan struggles to treat drug addicts

According to the NSDUH survey, those who used pain relievers non-medically in the past 12 months got them from the following sources:

  • 51.3% were given them for free by a relative or friend.
  • 34.7% procured them from one doctor.
  • 6.5% got them from a stranger.
  • 2% procured them from more than one doctor.

Of the people who said they got pain relievers from a relative or friend for free, 80.7% said the drugs had originally been obtained from just one doctor.

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Opioid Epidemic In The United States

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The opioid epidemic refers to the extensive ongoing overuse of opioid medications, both from medical prescriptions and from illegal sources. The epidemic began in the United States in the late 1990s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , when opioids were increasingly prescribed for pain management and resulted in a rise in overall opioid use throughout subsequent years. Use of opioids constitutes a public health emergency. The great majority of Americans who use prescription opioids do not believe that they are misusing them.

Percent Of Us Adults Have Drug Use Disorder At Some Point In Their Lives

75 percent report not receiving any form of treatment.

A survey of American adults revealed that drug use disorder is common, co-occurs with a range of mental health disorders and often goes untreated. The study, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism , part of the National Institutes of Health, found that about 4 percent of Americans met the criteria for drug use disorder in the past year and about 10 percent have had drug use disorder at some time in their lives.

Based on these findings, more than 23 million adults in the United States have struggled with problematic drug use.

George F. Koob, Ph.D., NIAAA director

Based on these findings, more than 23 million adults in the United States have struggled with problematic drug use, said George F. Koob, Ph.D., NIAAA director. Given these numbers, and other recent findings about the prevalence and under-treatment of alcohol use disorder in the U.S., it is vitally important that we continue our efforts to understand the underlying causes of drug and alcohol addiction, their relationship to other psychiatric conditions and the most effective forms of treatment.

This includes the problematic use of amphetamines, marijuana, club drugs , cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, non-heroin opioids , sedatives/tranquilizers, and solvents/inhalants. Face-to-face interviews were conducted to diagnose drug use disorder, as well as alcohol use disorder, nicotine use disorder, and various personality disorders.

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