The front page of DrugAbuseStatistics.org features the most noteworthy data regarding drug abuse, including overdose deaths, addiction by drug type, demographics, mental health, drug abuse treatment programs, and the cost of the War on Drugs.
Drug Overdoses & Deaths | Drug Use Among Youth | Marijuana Use & Addiction | Opioid Epidemic | Marijuana Incarceration | Fentanyl Abuse | Prescription Drug Abuse | Alcohol Abuse
Substance Abuse Statistics
Among Americans aged 12 years and older, 31.9 million are current illegal drug users (used within the last 30 days).
- 11.7% of Americans 12 and over use illegal drugs.
- 53 million or 19.4% of people 12 and over have used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year.
- If alcohol and tobacco are included, 165 million or 60.2% or of Americans aged 12 years or older currently abuse drugs (i.e., used within the last 30 days).
- 139.8 million Americans 12 and over drink alcohol.
- 14.8 million or 10.6% of them have an alcohol use disorder.
- 58.8 million people use tobacco.
- 31.9 million use illegal drugs.
- 8.1 million of 25.4% of illegal drug users have a drug disorder.
- 2 million people or 24.7% of those with drug disorders have an opioid disorder; this includes prescription pain relievers or “pain killers” and heroin).
|Drug Users||All Adults|
|Prescription pain medication||31%||6%|
Drug Abuse Demographics
Drug abuse and substance disorders are more likely to affect young males
- 22% of males and 17% of females used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year.
- 5% of people in non-metropolitan, rural counties used illegal drugs compared to 20.2% of people in larger metropolitan counties.
- Drug use is highest among persons between the ages of 18-25 at 39% compared to persons aged 26-29, at 34%.
- 70% of users who try an illegal drug before age 13 develop a substance abuse disorder within the next 7 years compared to 27% of those who try an illegal drug after age 17.
- 47% of young people use an illegal drug by the time they graduate from high school; other users within the last 30 days include:
- 5% of 8th graders.
- 20% of 10th graders.
- 24% of 12th graders.
|Pain killers||1.9 million|
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized expansion of Medicare coverage to include opioid treatment programs delivering MAT (medication-assisted-treatment) effective Jan. 1, 2020.
- 10.1 million or 3.7% of Americans misuse opioids at least once over a 12-month period.
- 1.6 million or 15.8% qualify as having an opioid use disorder.
- 9.7 million or 96.6% of opioid misusers use prescription pain relievers.
- 745,000 or 7.4% of opioid misusers abuse heroin; 404,000 or 4.0% use heroin and prescriptions.
- Hydrocodone is the most popular prescription opioid, with 5.1 million misusers.
- Taking opioids for a period longer than 3 months increases the risk of addiction 15 times- most persons in acute pain rarely need more than 7 days’ worth
- The national opioid prescription rate peaked in 2012 with over 255 million prescriptions, an average of 81.3 prescriptions per 100 persons. Additionally:
- In 2015, opioids were still being prescribed at a rate that would medicate every American around the clock (5mg of hydrocodone every 4 hours) for 3 weeks.
- By 2018, the number had declined to 51.4 prescriptions per 100 persons.
- In 11% of US counties, there are still enough opioid prescriptions dispensed for every resident to have one.
- In 2018, 51.3% of Americans obtained their illegal pain medication from a friend or relative.
- Between 2016 and 2017, global opium production jumped 65% to 10,500 tons.
- In Afghanistan, alone production reached 9,000 tons/year, an increase of 87%.
- More than 75% of opium poppy cultivation occurs in Afghanistan.
- The most common type of substance exposure reported to poison control centers is illegal or misused prescription opioids, with nearly 284,000 cases of exposure, including:
- 44% of cases were for children under the age of 5, including 5,300 exposures to heroin and fentanyl.
- The exposure of children under 5 to marijuana increased by 148% over a 7-year period.
- Exposure to prescription opioids increased 93% each year over a 9-year period.
For more information, see our report on the opioid epidemic.
Accidental drug overdose is a leading cause of death among persons under the age of 45.
- Over 70,000 drug overdose deaths occur in the US annually.
- The number of overdose deaths increases at an annual rate of 4.0%.
- From 2012 to 2015, the US saw a 264% increase in synthetic opioid (other than methadone) deaths.
- Between 1999-2017, over 700,000 people died of drug overdoses in the US.
- In 2017, 67.8% of the 70,237 drug overdose deaths were opioid-related, including:
- 28,466 deaths were fentanyl-related.
- 17,029 deaths were prescription- opioid-related.
- 15,482 deaths were heroin-related.
- Drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and tramadol increased by 10% between 2017 and 2018.
- The average life expectancy in the United States actually declined between 2015 and 2017 due to opioid overdose deaths, only increasing 0.16% to 78.93 years in 2019.
- In 2019, clinics who dealt with primary care, pain management or substance abuse disorders saw drastic increases in urine samples testing positive for potentially fatal drugs:
- 4% of urine samples tested positive for meth, compared to 1.4% in 2013.
- 5% of urine samples tested positive for fentanyl compared to 1% in 2013.
For more information, see our report on overdose deaths.
Also known as opioids, narcotics include opium, opium derivatives, and synthetic versions.
- Naturally sourced opioids are derived from poppies (Papaver somniferum)
- Synthetic opioids are created in laboratories, including methadone, fentanyl, and meperidine
- Semi-synthetic opioids are synthesized from naturally occurring opium products and include morphine, codeine, heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone
- Street names include Smack, Horse, Mud, Brown Sugar, Junk, Black Tat, Big H, Paregoric, Dover’s Powder, MPTP (New Heroin), Hillbilly Heroin, Lean or Purple Drank, OC, Ox, Oxy, Oxycotton, Sippin Syrup
- In 2018, 0.3% or 808,000 persons reported using heroin in the past year
- Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug approved by the FDA as an anesthetic and for pain relief. It is also one of the most abused and dangerous narcotics today.
For more information about fentanyl, see our report on fentanyl abuse.
Depressants are prescribed to induce sleep, alleviate anxiety and muscle spasms and prevent seizures.
- Early depressants (barbiturates) such as butalbital, phenobarbital, and pentothal are less likely to be prescribed than newer benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Xanax, Halcion, Klonopin.
- The depressant Rohypnol is not legal in the US and is commonly used alongside cocaine to drug victims of sexual assault.
- Sedative/hypnotic medications for insomnia include Ambien, Sonata, and Quaalude.
- Street names include Barbs, Benzos, Downers, Georgia Home Boy, GHB, Grievous Bodily Harm, Liquid X, Nerve Pills, Phennies, R2, Reds, Roofies, Rophies, Tranks, and Yellows.
- In 2018, 2.1% or 5.7 million people in the US reported misuse of prescription tranquilizers.
- In 2018, 0.4% or 1 million people in the US reported misuse of prescription sedatives.
Stimulants come in both legal and illegal forms. Prescription stimulants include Adderall, Dexedrine, diet aids like Preludin, Fastin, Meridia, and street drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, methcathinone, and other synthetic cathinones known as “bath salts.”
- Amphetamines may also be used to treat ADHD or narcolepsy.
- Street names for stimulants include Bennies, Black Beauties, Cat, Coke, Crank, Crystal, Flake, Ice, Molly, Pellets, R-Ball, Skippy, Snow, Speed, Uppers, and Vitamin R.
- In 2018, 0.7% or 1.8 million persons in the US 12 years and older reported meth use in the past year.
- In 2018, 2% or 5.5 million persons in the US reported having used cocaine in the past year.
- Nearly 1 in 5 drug overdose deaths in 2017 were cocaine-related, with the highest rate of cocaine-related overdoses and deaths occurring among non-Hispanic black populations.
- Between 2012 and 2018, the rate of cocaine-related overdose deaths increased from 1.4% to 4.5%.
- Most meth sold in the US is manufactured and distributed by Mexican drug trafficking organizations.
- Amphetamines are primarily a problem in the Middle East, and Europe, however, their use is increasing in Africa.
- In 2013, there were fewer than 5,000 cocaine-related deaths worldwide compared to 10,000 in 2016.
- Most cocaine is sourced from Columbia which produces 90% of cocaine powder sold in the US, predominantly entering the country through Mexico.
- Synthetic cathinones are sold as cheap alternatives to meth and cocaine, with some far more powerful and harmful than cocaine.
- MDPV (methylenedioxypyrovalerone) is the most commonly found synthetic cathinone found in emergency room patients who took “bath salts”.
Commonly abused prescription stimulants include:
- Adderall – A popular amphetamine, 614, 000 teens aged 12–17 have admitted using the drug for nonmedical reasons at some point. Abuse of the drug leads to almost 1,500 emergency room visits every year, and serious side effects can include insomnia and stroke.
- Ritalin – A brand name for methylphenidate, nonmedical use of the drug is illegal and is believed to serve as a gateway drug to eventual cheaper, harder drugs like meth. Serious side effects can include hallucinations and lack of appetite.[/cite_green]
- Concerta – A popular methylphenidate drug, most teens who use the drug recreationally get it from a friend who has a prescription for it. Snorting crushed pills have become popular among teens — in order to amplify the effects of the high. Dangers of nonmedical use of Concerta can include disrupted sleep patterns, vision disturbances, and stroke.
- Vyvanse – Initially billed as a medication with low abuse potential — and intended for younger children — nonmedical use of the drug has nonetheless pervaded among adolescents. Serious side effects include abnormalities in brain chemistry, delirium, and seizures.
- Modafinil – This eugeroic medication is often prescribed for narcolepsy but has gained incredible popularity among adolescents for its ability to shut down the body’s need for sleep — the perfect solution for all-night cramming before tests. It is often referred to as its brand name “Provigil.” In some cases, Provigil abuse can lead to life-threatening skin conditions and recurring suicidal thoughts.
Hallucinogens are both naturally occurring (plants and fungi) and synthetic. As most hallucinogens have no accepted medical use for treatment in the US, they are illegal.
- Hallucinogens include ketamine, mushrooms (Psilocybin), LSD, and MDMA (ecstasy).
- Common street names include Acid, Blotter, Cubes, Fry, Mind Candy, Mushrooms or Shrooms, Special K, STP, X, and XTC.
- LSD is one of the most dangerous hallucinogens with the greatest potential to cause serious long-term damage.
Marijuana is classified under the Controlled Substances Act as a hallucinogen. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis sativa plant with the main constituent THC ((delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol) believed to be the primary ingredient producing the psychoactive effect.
- 48.2 million Americans over the age of 18 use marijuana at least once over a 12-month period.
- Marijuana use increased 15.9% from 2018 to 2019.
- Marijuana is illegal under Federal law but 15 states have legalized its recreational use. Within those states it’s estimated that sales topped $14 billion in 2019 with sales projected to reach $30 billion or higher in 2023.
- Street names for marijuana include: Aunt Mary, BC Bud, Blunts, Boom, Chronic, Dope, Gangster, Ganja, Grass, Hash, Herb, Hydro, Indo, Joint, Kif, Mary Jane, Mota, Pot, Reefer, Sinsemilla, Skunk, Smoke, Weed, and Yerba.
- 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder and 1 in 6 users who start using it before age 18 become addicted
- In 2019, 43% of college students consumed marijuana, which was the highest rate of marijuana consumption among that group since 1983.
- Marijuana is frequently used in a polysubstance situation where multiple drugs are taken together, alcohol in particular:
- Alcohol and marijuana together is known as a “crossfade,” and will increase alcohol impairment and speed up the absorption of THC into the body.
- Polysubstance consumption of drugs can result in dependency/addiction, high-risk behaviors, psychopathology onset or other poor mental health outcomes.
- In users with higher risk factors such as preexisting health conditions, polysubstance consumption can be extremely dangerous.
- Marijuana concentrates or “dabs” can contain 40-90% THC, which could be higher than 4 times the amount of THC in marijuana. These concentrates can cause serious harm to individuals unaware of the level of THC they are consuming or from the toxic chemicals produced during the process, such as benzene and methacrolein
- Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) can cause other health problems
- Synthetic cannabinoids (street names K2, Spice) are marketed as a cheap alternative to marijuana but are in fact dangerous or even life-threatening
- In states where marijuana has been legalized:
- Emergency-room visits related to marijuana increased by 54% and hospitalizations increased by 101% in 2018.
- Suicides where toxicology tests indicated marijuana had been used increased from 7.6% in 2006 to 23% in 2017.
- In Colorado, the cost of marijuana to taxpayers is nearly $5.00 for every $1.00 gained in tax revenue in addition to expenses such as marijuana-related DUIs that cost $25 million in 2016.
For more information, see our report on marijuana addiction.
Though legal, alcohol kills over 95,150 Americans every year.
- 86.4% of people ages 18 or older report drinking alcohol at some point in their lifetime
- 70.1% report drinking in the past year
- 56% report drinking in the past month
- Among the 15 million individuals with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), less than 8% receive treatment.
- Alcohol use among 12- to 17-year-olds increased 4.4% from 2018 to 2019, whereas use among other age groups declined.
For more information, see our report on alcohol abuse.
Dependence, Addiction, & Mental Health
Non-sanctioned/non-medical/non-prescribed use of these controlled substances is considered drug abuse. They are likely to create physical or psychological dependence.
- 9.5 million or 3.8% of adults over the age of 18 have both a substance abuse disorder (SUD) and a metal illness.
- SUDs affect over 20 million Americans aged 12 and over.
- Most common disorders are related to marijuana and prescription pain relievers.
- Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) affect 3.5 million adolescents and 4.6 million young adults nationwide.
- 51.5 million or 20.6% of adults over the age of 18 have a mental illness.
- 13.1 million or 5.2% of adults have a serious mental illness.
- 358,000 or 1.5% of all adolescents in the US have had both an SUD and an MDE within the last year.
- 1.2% of all adolescents had both an SUD and MDE resulting in severe impairment.
- 8.5% of adolescents with MDE were more likely to binge drink than those without (4.1%).
- 32.7% of adolescents with ME were more likely to use an illegal drug than those without (14%).
- Among adolescents with both an MDE and SUD, 65.7% received either substance abuse treatment at a specialty facility or mental health services.
- In 2018, 3.7% or 9.2 million of all adults aged 18 and older in the US had both an AMI and at least one SUD in the past year.
- 3.2 million adults (1.3% of all adults in the US) had co-occurring SMI and an SUD in the past year.
- 31% of adults with AMI and 32.3% of adults with SMI were binge drinkers .
- 49.4% of adults with SMI 36.7% of adults with AMI used illegal drugs in 2018.
- Among adults with AMI and SUD, around 51.4% received either mental health care or specialty substance abuse treatment.
- 1 in 3 received no care.
Drug Abuse Among Veterans
Mental illness and substance abuse (comorbidity) is relatively common among military veterans.
- 7% of veterans struggle with illegal drug use compared to 5.3% of the general population in the US over age 18.
- 80% struggle with alcohol abuse, and 7% have an issue with both alcohol and illegal drugs.
- 7% of the veteran population has a serious mental illness compared to 14.4% of adults over 18.
- Marijuana and psychotherapeutic drugs are the most commonly abused by veterans.
- 505,000 veterans misuse prescription pain relievers compared to 59,000 who used heroin.
- 10% of veterans between the ages of 18-25 misuse prescription pain relievers compared to 5.5% of the general population in the US in the same age group.
Drug Abuse Among Demographics
Statistics indicate that some demographics and communities face elevated risks of drug abuse and drug disorders.
- Persons previously abusing drugs and recently released from prison are at the highest risk for overdose as their tolerance to the drug has dropped while being incarcerated.
- “Club drugs” such as ecstasy, meth, cocaine, ketamine, LSD, and GHB are primarily used in higher-income settings by young people.
- Among lower-income users, the most commonly used drugs are inhalants such as paint thinner, gasoline, paint, correction fluid and glue.
- 6.3 million LGBT+ adults had a substance or mental abuse disorder or both.
- 7% of LGBT+ adults struggled with illegal drugs.
- 2% of LGBT+ adults struggled with alcohol abuse.
- 8% struggled with both illegal drugs and alcohol abuse.
- 3% indicated a serious mental illness.
Drug Abuse Among Age Groups
While younger people are more likely to use drugs, the rate of drug use among people over 40 is increasing faster than it is among younger age grups.
- The drug-related death rate for users over 50 increases 3% annually.
- 75% of deaths from drug use disorders among users aged 50 years and older are caused by opioids.
- 6% of drug deaths among 50-plus users are from cocaine and amphetamines, and 13% are from other drugs.
- 35% of college students indicated they use illegal drugs instead of prescription drugs.
- 93% of college students who use illegal drugs use marijuana.
- 37% use cocaine and 36% use hallucinogens.
Drug Abuse Among States
Nearly 70% of law enforcement agencies in the western and midwestern areas of the United States view methamphetamine and fentanyl as the greatest threats to their populations.
- West Virginia has the nation’s highest rate of overdose deaths at 51.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
- Delaware, with 43.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
- Maryland, with 37.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
- Pennsylvania, with 36.1 deaths per 100,000 people.
- Ohio, with 35.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
Drug Abuse by Sex or Gender
Most data resources use the terms sex and gender interchangeably. Unfortunately, few statistics are yet available that explore trends among gender identities.
Drug abuse and misuse of prescription drugs is generally more prevalent in males than in females.
- 22% of males have used drugs in the past year.
- 17% of females have used drugs in the past year.
- 4% of males abuse opioids; 3.5% of females abuse opioids.
- 0.5% of men use heroin; 0.2% of women use heroin.
- 3.9% of males and 3.4% of females misuse prescription pain killers.
- Cocaine use was 2.6% of males and 1.5% of females use cocaine.
- 0.8% of males and 0.4% of females use methamphetamines.
- 2.1% of males and 1.6% of females misuse prescription stimulants.
- 18.5% of males and 13.5% of females use marijuana.
- 2.2% of males and 2.0% of females misuse prescription tranquilizers.
- 0.5% of males and 0.5% of females misuse prescription sedatives.
Women & Drug Abuse
- Only 20% of individuals in drug treatment are women.
- Women are more likely to do drugs with an intimate partner, whereas men more likely to do drugs with other male friends.
- 32.1 million women in the US have a mental or substance abuse disorder:
- 39% struggle with illegal drugs.
- 5% struggle with both illegal drugs and alcohol.
- The number of women using marijuana increased 12.5% from 2017 to 2018.
- 9 million women had a prescription opioid abuse problem compared to 292,000 who were using heroin:
- 4 million misused Hydrocodone.
- 4 million misused Oxycodone.
- 125,000 misused Fentanyl.
- Substance abuse disorders are associated with increased suicide risk among women:
- 5 million women with substance abuse disorder (SUD) over the age of 18 had serious thoughts about suicide.
- 538,000 had made a plan to commit suicide.
- 287,000 had attempted suicide.
- 9% had received no treatment for substance abuse.
- The participation by women in the drug trade is predominantly affected by socioeconomic vulnerability, trafficking, violence, intimate relationships, and economic associations.
- Drug use by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can pose significant risks to the unborn child, resulting in birth defects or even miscarriage.
- Babies may experience neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
- In 2014 there were 4 times as many babies born with NAS than in 1999.
The Consequences of Drug Abuse
In 2017, the cost of drug abuse in the US was nearly $272 billion, taking into account crime, healthcare needs, lost work productivity and other impacts on society.
- $193 billion was incurred in overall costs for illegal drugs in addition to $78.5 billion for prescription opioids.
- $11 billion was incurred in healthcare costs related to the use of illegal drugs and $26 billion for prescription opioids.
- 326,000 hospitalizations occurred for nonfatal drug poisonings or overdoses occurred in 2016, including unintentional, undetermined intent, and intentional self-harm.
- 577,794 emergency room visits occurred for nonfatal drug poisonings or overdoses in 2016 with the most patients experiencing opioid poisoning.
- There are new psychoactive substances (NPS) entering the market every year. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of known psychoactive substances being sold increased from 269 to 479.
- Drug abuse often results in comorbidity- nearly 50% of persons who have substance abuse disorder also experience mental illness.
Heightened Risk of Disease
High-risk behaviors and drug abuse also result in much higher chances of contracting viral infections such as hepatitis or HIV.
- Drug abuse affects symptoms and adversely changes the outcomes of infectious diseases.
- Abusers who inject their drugs account for 1 in 10 HIV diagnoses.
- In 2016, 20% of HIV cases (150,000) among men were attributed to injection drug use.
- In 2016, 21% of HIV cases (50,000) among women were attributed to injection drug use.
- 1,814 children were diagnosed with perinatal HIV in 2016.
- 10,100 adults were living with perinatal HIV in 2016.
Drug Abuse Financial Costs
In 2020, the National Drug Control Budget requested $34.6 billion across five areas of drug control functions: operations, prevention, treatment, interdiction, and law enforcement).
- $1.2 billion to Department of Defense for counterdrug operations at home and abroad.
- $55.5 million to Department of Education for “school climate transformation grants” for school-based substance abuse prevention/technical assistance.
- $1.5 billion to SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) for State Opioid Response grants intended for tribes, states, and US territory.
- $1.9 billion to SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant to fund evidence-based prevention activities for states, tribes and territories.
- $620 million to HRSA community health centers.
- Other recipients include the Departments of Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, etc.
Drug Abuse Treatment
Beginning in the early 2010s, states that began to enhance their prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) saw drastic results.
- Between 2010 and 2015, Kentucky saw an 85% decrease in the number of opioids prescribed per person.
- In 2010, Florida stopped health care providers from dispensing prescription opioid pain medication from their office locations alongside a PDMP and in 2012, marked a 50% decline in oxycodone overdose deaths.
- In 2012, New York required prescribers of medication to check the state’s PDMP before prescribing opioids and in 2013, marked a 75% drop in patients who went to multiple doctors/prescribers for the same drugs.
- There has been a 16% annual decline in nationwide opioid prescriptions.
- The rate of Americans receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) increases 13% annually.
- In 2018, nearly 19 million people aged 12 and older needed substance abuse treatment.
- 964,000 perceived a need for treatment, 392,000 went on to seek treatment.
- 946,000 adolescents aged 12-17 needed substance abuse treatment, 159,00 received treatment.
- 5.2 million young adults or 1 in 7 aged 18-25 needed substance abuse treatment, only 1.6% or 547,000 received treatment.
- 15.1 million adults or 1 in 14 aged 26 or older needed substance abuse treatment, only 1.4% or 3 million received treatment.
- WHO Publications
- DEA releases 2020 Drugs of Abuse Resource Guide
- 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Healths Releases
- 2018 NSDUH Detailed Tables | CBHSQ Data
- Underlying Cause of Death, 1999-2018, D15F907
- Campus Drug Prevention Data
- State Successes | Drug Overdose
- The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health
- Prevalence and Patterns of Polysubstance Use in a Nationally Representative Sample of 10th Graders in the United States
- DEA: Home
- National Centers for Poison Control Annual Reports
- 2017-2018 NSDUH Estimated Totals By State | CBHSQ Data
- State Spending Addiction