Statistics on Drug Addiction

Statistics on Drug Addiction

If you are thinking of seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one, you are not alone. The number of people suffering from addiction in America is astounding. Let’s take a look at some numbers starting with adolescents.

Quick Facts on Drug Addiction

  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017.1
  • Almost 74% of adults suffering from a substance use disorder in 2017 struggled with an alcohol use disorder.1
  • About 38% of adults in 2017 battled an illicit drug use disorder.1
  • That same year, 1 out of every 8 adults struggled with both alcohol and drug use disorders simultaneously.1
  • In 2017, 8.5 million American adults suffered from both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorders.1
  • Drug abuse and addiction cost American society more than $740 billion annually in lost workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and crime-related costs.2

Causes of Addiction

  • Genetics, including the impact of one’s environment on gene expression, account for about 40% to 60% of a person’s risk of addiction.3
  • Environmental factors that may increase a person’s risk of addiction include a chaotic home environment and abuse, parent’s drug use and attitude toward drugs, peer influences, community attitudes toward drugs, and poor academic achievement.3
  • Teenagers and people with mental health disorders are more at risk for drug use and addiction than other populations.3

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Statistics on Specific Population Demographics and Addiction

Adolescents (aged 12-17):

  • 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:

  • More than 1 million adults age 65 or older had a substance use disorder in 2017.7
  • That same year, about 978,000 of people in this age group had an alcohol use disorder and about 93,000 had an illicit drug use disorder.7
  • Two-thirds of the population over the age of 65 who struggle with alcohol use disorders developed the disorder before age 65.6
  • Between 21% and 66% of elderly individuals battling a substance use disorder also suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder.6

Men vs. women:

  • In 2017, about 9.4% of men and 5.2% of women age 12 and older had a substance use disorder.7
  • 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.8

Ethnicity/race:

  • American Indians and Alaska Natives age 12 and older had the highest rate of substance abuse and dependence in 2017, at 12.8%.7
  • Whites had a 7.7% rate of substance abuse in 2017.
  • About 6.8% percent of African Americans struggled with substance use disorders, while the percentage of Hispanics or Latinos who suffered from substance use disorders was 6.6%.7
  • Approximately 4.6% percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders suffered from substance use disorders.7
  • Asian Americans had the lowest rate of substance use disorders at 3.8%.7

Criminal justice/employment status:

  • Almost twice as many people who are unemployed struggle with addiction than those who are full-time workers, CNN Money Around 17% of the unemployed and 9% of the employed population struggle with a substance use disorder.9
  • Of the 2.3 million people in American prisons and jails, more than 65% meet the criteria for addiction.10
  • Around 75% 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.11

Statistics on Addiction to Specific Substances

Cocaine:

  • About 966,000 American adults (over age 12) struggled with a cocaine use disorder in 2017.1
  • That same year, 637,000 people age 12 and older received treatment for a cocaine use disorder either in their last or current stay in rehabilitation.7

Heroin:

  • About 652,000 people age 12 and older had a heroin use disorder in 2017.1
  • Almost a quarter of people who abuse heroin will become addicted to it.12
  • Heroin use has risen in most demographic groups in the United States over the past 2 decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.4
  • Individuals addicted to alcohol are 2 times more likely to also be addicted to heroin, while those addicted to marijuana are 3 times more likely, individuals addicted to cocaine are 15 times more likely, and people addicted to prescription drugs are 40 times more likely.4
  • The highest at-risk population for heroin addiction is non-Hispanic white males between the ages of 18 and 25 who live in large cities.4

Prescription drugs:

  • The most common types of prescription drugs abused in 2017 were pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives.7
  • In 2017, about 1.7 million people age 12 and older had a pain reliever use disorder, or about 0.6% of this population.1
  • Women may more rapidly develop a prescription painkiller dependence than men. They are also more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed pain relievers, and receive higher doses.12
  • According to a study 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 5 years younger than individuals admitted solely for heroin abuse or dependency.13

Marijuana:

  • Approximately 4.1 million American adults over the age of 12 battled a marijuana use disorder in 2017.1
  • The majority of people struggling with marijuana addiction in 2017 were between the ages of 12 and 25.1
  • Almost 6% of full-time college students in the United States were daily marijuana smokers in 2014. This is more than triple the number of daily smokers in this population 20 years prior.14

Alcohol:

  • In 2017, an estimated 14.5 million American adults age 12 and older battled an alcohol use disorder, or 5.3% of this population.1
  • Over half of all American adults have a family history of problem drinking or alcohol addiction.15
  • More than 10% of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems.16
  • An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually.16
  • Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States.16
  • 47% of the 78,529 liver diseases among people age 12 and older in 2015 involved alcohol.16
  • 40% of all hospital beds in the United States are used to treat conditions related to alcohol consumption.15

Statistics on Addiction Treatment

  • In 2017, an estimated 20.7 million people age 12 and older needed treatment for a substance use disorder. Only 4 million people received treatment, or about 19% of those who needed it.1
  • In 2017, of the more than 18 million people who needed but did not receive treatment for substance use, only 1 million, or 5.7%, of those people felt they needed treatment.1
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has more than 120,000 groups in more than 175 countries around the world, with more than 2 million members.17
  • There are over 14,500 specialized substance abuse treatment facilities in the United States providing a variety of care options, including counseling, behavioral therapy, medication, case management, and other forms of care.18
  • The relapse rate for substance use disorders is estimated to be between 40% and 60%. This rate is similar to rates of relapse for other chronic diseases such as hypertension or asthma.19
  • Addiction is considered a highly treatable disease, and recovery is attainable. About 10% of American adults who are at least 18 years old say they are in recovery from an alcohol or drug abuse issue.20

Sources

[1]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

[2]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Trends & Statistics.

[3]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.

[4]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Today’s Heroin Epidemic.

[5]. Mattson, M., Lipari, R., Hays, C., and Van Horn, S. (2017). A Day in the Life of Older Adults: Substance Use Facts. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, The CBHSQ Report.

[6]. Bogunovic, O. (2012). Substance Abuse in Aging and Elderly Adults. Psychiatric Times, 29(8).

[7]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.

[8]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Substance Use in Women.

[9]. Kurtz, A. (2013). 1 in 6 unemployed are substance abusers. CNN Money.

[10]. Sack, D. (2014). We can’t afford to ignore drug addiction in prison. The Washington Post.

[11]. National Institutes of Health. (2018). Addiction and the Criminal Justice System.

[12]. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2016). Opioid Addiction Facts & Figures.

[13]. Cleland, C., Rosenblum, A., Fong, C., and Maxwell, C. (2011). Age differences in heroin and prescription opioid abuse among enrollees into opioid treatment programs. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 6, 11.

[14]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Drug and Alcohol Use in College-Age Adults in 2014.

[15]. Facing Addiction with NCADD. Facts About Alcohol.

[16]. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2018). Alcohol Facts and Statistics.

[17]. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2018). Estimated Worldwide A.A. Individual and Group Membership.

[18]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drug Addiction Treatment in the United States.

[19]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Treatment and Recovery.

[20]. New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. (2012). Survey: Ten Percent of American Adults Report Being in Recovery from Substance Abuse or Addiction.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019
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About the reviewer
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Dr. Scot Thomas is Senior Medical Editor for American Addiction Centers. He received his medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

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