Statistics on Drug Addiction

Quick Facts on Drug Addiction

  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2014.
  • Almost 80 percent of individuals suffering from a substance use disorder in 2014 struggled with an alcohol use disorder, NSDUH
  • Over 7 million Americans in 2014 battled a drug use disorder, per NSDUH.
  • One out of every eight people who suffered from a drug use disorder in 2014, according to NSUDH, struggled with both alcohol and drug use disorders simultaneously.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes that in 2014, almost 8 million American adults battled both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorders.
  • Drug abuse and addiction cost American society close to $200 billion in healthcare, criminal justice, legal, and lost workplace production/participation costs in 2007, the Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) reports.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the global burden of disease related to drug and alcohol issues to be 5.4 percent worldwide.

Causes of Addiction

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Statistics on Specific Population Demographics and Addiction

Adolescents (aged 12-17):

  • NSDUH reports that in 2014, approximately 5 percent of the American adolescent population suffered from a substance use disorder; this equates to 1.3 million teens, or 1 in every 12.
  • Almost 700,000 American youths between ages 12 and 17 battled an alcohol use disorder in 2013, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
  • An estimated 867,000 adolescents suffered from an illicit drug use disorder in 2014, which was a decline from previous years, per NSDUH.
  • Individuals who tried marijuana or alcohol before the age of 15 were almost four times as likely to suffer from a marijuana use disorder as an adult than those who waited until after age 18 to try these substances, according to data published in the 2013 NSDUH.

Young adults aged 18-25:

  • About one out of every six American young adults (between the ages of 18 and 25) battled a substance use disorder in 2014, NSDUH This represents the highest percentage out of any age group at 16.3 percent.
  • Heroin addiction among young adults between 18 and 25 years old has doubled in the past 10 years, AARP
  • In college students studied in 2010, the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) found that alcohol was the number one substance this group received specialized treatment for, at 72 percent of those admitted to public substance abuse programs did so for an alcohol use disorder (marijuana was second at 55.7 percent and prescription drugs were third at 31.6 percent).

Over age 25:

  • Approximately 14.5 million adults aged 26 or older struggled with a substance use disorder in 2014, NSUDH
  • College graduates aged 26 or older battled drug addiction at lower rates than those who did not graduate from high school or those who didn’t finish college, the 2013 NSDUH

Elderly individuals:

  • An estimated 15 percent of elderly individuals may suffer from problems with substance abuse and addiction, Today’s Geriatric Medicine
  • Over 3 percent of the older adult population may struggle with an alcohol use disorder.
  • This generation takes more prescription drugs than younger ones, have lower metabolisms, potentially suffer from social isolation and ageism, may struggle with many medical issues, and therefore may be at a high risk for prescription drug abuse and dependence, according to Psychiatric Times.
  • Two-thirds of the population over the age of 65 who struggle with alcohol addiction, battled an alcohol use disorder at a younger age and carried it with them as they aged.
  • Between 21 and 66 percent of elderly individuals battling a substance use disorder also suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder.

Men vs. women:

  • In 2013, adult men in the United States struggled with an alcohol use disorder at rates double those of women, 10.8 million as compared to 5.8 million, NIAAA
  • For boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 17, both genders battle substance use disorders at similar rates, making it the only age bracket that men did not significantly outweigh women, the 2013 NSDUH
  • Close to 70 percent of treatment admissions for substance abuse in 2010 were male, TEDS
  • Men may be more likely to abuse illicit drugs than women, but women may be just as prone to addiction as men when they do abuse them, NIDA


  • The 2013 NSDUH reports that American Indians and Alaska natives had the highest rate of substance abuse and dependence at 14.3 percent.
  • Approximately 11.3 percent of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders suffered from substance abuse and dependence in 2013, NSDUH
  • According to NSDUH, Hispanics and whites suffered from substance abuse and dependence at similar rates in 2013, around 8.5 percent, while about 7.4 percent of African Americans struggled with it.
  • Asians suffered from substance abuse and dependency the least at rates around 4.5 percent, per the 2013 NSDUH.
  • A study of undergraduate college students published in the Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse found that whites and Hispanics were more likely to have issues surrounding drug abuse than their Asian and African American counterparts.

Criminal justice/employment status:

  • Almost twice as many people who are unemployed struggle with addiction than those who are fulltime workers, CNN Money reports; around 17 percent of the unemployed and 9 percent of the employed population struggled with a substance use disorder in 2012.
  • About half of the population of American prisons and jails suffer from addiction, according to NCAAD.
  • Around three-quarters of individuals in a state prison or local jail who suffer from a mental illness also struggle with substance abuse, and the opposite is also true, the National Institute of Health (NIH) publishes.

Statistics on Addiction to Specific Substances


  • Over 900,000 American adults (over age 11) struggled with a cocaine use disorder in 2014, per NSDUH.
  • In 2010, TEDS reported that 8 percent of all treatment admissions were for cocaine abuse or dependency issues.


  • The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports that in 2015, approximately 586,000 Americans aged 12 and older struggled with a substance use disorder involving heroin.
  • Almost a quarter of people who abuse heroin will become addicted to it, ASAM
  • Heroin abuse and addiction have risen in all population and demographic groups in the United States over the past few years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states.
  • Individuals addicted to alcohol are two times more likely to also be addicted to heroin, while those addicted to marijuana are three times more likely, individuals addicted to cocaine are 15 times more likely, and people addicted to prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to also be addicted to heroin, per the CDC.
  • The highest at-risk population for heroin addiction, as reported by S. News, is non-Hispanic white males between the ages of 18 and 25 who live in large cities.
  • Almost three-fourths of individuals admitted to treatment for a heroin abuse or dependency concern, according to the 2010 TEDS, cited injection as the primary method of abuse.

Prescription drugs:

  • Prescription drugs are abused at high rates. NSUDH reports that the most common types of psychotherapeutic drugs abused in 2013 were pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives in that order. Pain relievers are the most common cause of a substance use disorder among prescription drugs.
  • ASAM publishes that over 2 million Americans over the age of 11 struggled with an opioid pain reliever abuse disorder in 2014.
  • ASAM also reports that women may more rapidly develop a prescription painkiller addiction than men.
  • On average, according to studies published in the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, individuals who were admitted to opioid treatment programs who abused only prescription opioids, or those who abused both heroin and prescription opioids, were about five years younger than individuals admitted solely for heroin abuse or dependency.


  • Almost 6 percent of fulltime college students in the United States smoked marijuana daily in 2014, NIDA publishes; this is more than triple the number of daily smokers 20 years prior.
  • Approximately 4.2 million American adults (over the age of 11) battled a marijuana use disorder in 2014, NSDUH
  • The majority of people struggling with marijuana addiction in 2014 were between the ages of 12 and 25, according to NSDUH.
  • Marijuana use disorders accounted for the third highest number of treatment admissions (at 18 percent) to substance abuse programs in 2010, TEDS reported


  • According to NCADD, alcohol is the most abused addictive substance in America.
  • In 2013, an estimated 16.6 million American adults (18 and older) battled an alcohol use disorder, NIAAA
  • In 2010, TEDS published that 41 percent of all substance abuse treatment admissions were for alcohol.
  • The Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) reported that in 2010, among American military veterans between the ages of 21 and 39 who admitted to substance abuse treatment programs, more than half cited alcohol as the primary substance of concern.
  • Over half of all American adults have a personal family history of problem drinking or alcohol addiction, NCADD

Stats on Addiction Treatment

  • In 2013, only 10.9 percent of the individuals who needed treatment in a specialized facility for a substance use or dependency concern actually received it, NSDUH
  • About 1.3 million adults and 73,000 adolescents received treatment in 2013 at a specialized facility for an alcohol use disorder, NIAAA
  • Around a third of all college students admitted to publicly funded substance abuse treatment programs in 2010 battled a co-occurring mental health disorder, according to TEDS.
  • Over 115,000 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups exist in more than 175 countries around the world, serving more than 2 million members.
  • Opiates accounted for almost a quarter of all substance abuse treatment admissions in 2010, per TEDS.
  • Most of the people who need treatment for addiction, but don’t get it, don’t feel they need it. NSDUH reports that in 2013, more than 95 percent of those who needed specialty substance abuse treatment, and didn’t receive it, didn’t think they needed it.
  • There are many types of treatment options. NIDA reports that there are over 14,500 specialized substance abuse treatment programs providing a variety of care options, from therapeutic methods to pharmaceutical tools to complementary forms of medicine.
  • Relapse is common in addiction treatment, with relapse rates being between 40 and 60 percent, NIDA This rate is very similar to rates of relapse with other chronic diseases like hypertension, asthma, or type I diabetes.
  • Addiction is considered a highly treatable disease, and recovery is attainable. About 10 percent of Americans (adults who were at least 18 years old) claim to be in recovery from an alcohol or drug abuse issue, the New York State Office on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) publishes.

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