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Addiction Statistics United States – Facts & Trends

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

Nationwide Alcohol and Drug Trends

  • 14.5 million people in the US age 12 and older have an alcohol use disorder.
  • 23 million adults in the US struggle with drug abuse at some point in their lives.
  • In 2019, over half of all substance abuse-related deaths involved a combination of illegal drugs or mixing drug and alcohol abuse. This form of substance abuse is known as polysubstance abuse and requires quality substance abuse treatment.

A snapshot of historical drug trends

Over the last few decades, patterns around substance abuse have changed dramatically. The primary driving force behind the change is the proliferation of synthetic drugs that are developed in pharmaceutical laboratories. Illegal laboratories run by organized crime have also begun to develop their own versions of prescription drugs.

This trend has made the legal status of certain drugs more complicated. “Designer drugs” with slightly different chemical compositions can be sold as legal substitutes for illicit drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis, LSD, or MDMA. While authorities do make these drugs illegal in time, the rate at which labs can develop new designer drugs is far faster than the rate at which legislation is passed.

  • The abuse of synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and spice among US 12th graders has remained consistent at 11% since 2011.
  • In 2021, the abuse of marijuana and hallucinogens among young adults reached the highest point since 1988.
  • Drug-related deaths have consistently increased since the 1950s, with a more dramatic jump in the 2000s and 2010s during the opioid crisis. In 2002, for instance, drug-related deaths rose by more than 20 percent – and more than 25 percent in 2016. This increase was largely driven by the prevalence of prescription opioids.

Driving under the influence (DUI statistics)

Alcohol-impaired driving is a major public health problem in the United States, and it consistently ranks as one of the most common causes of premature death.

  • 25% of fatal crash crashes involve a driver who is engaged in underage alcohol consumption.
  • 30% of all traffic crash deaths involve inebriated drivers.
  • Between 2011 and 2020, approximately 10,500 people died every year during drunk driving crashes.
  • Drunk driving crashes have a financial impact, costing the United States an average of $44 billion every year.
  • 21% of children killed in car accidents die due to impaired-driving crashes.

Alcohol-related emergencies and deaths in the United States

Alcohol-related harms can be direct, such as alcohol dependence and liver disease, but harms can also be indirect. These indirect alcohol-related harms include sexual assault, mental illness, an increased predisposition to drug addiction, and legal problems.

  • In 2019 alone, 28% of all driving fatalities were due to driving under the influence of alcohol, which translates to 10,142 deaths.
  • Between 2006 and 2014, emergency department visits due to alcohol increased by 47%.
  • 18.5% of ED visits and 22.1% of prescription opioid overdose deaths are linked to alcohol abuse.
  • Between 2019 and 2020, deaths in the US involving alcohol jumped from 78,927 to 99,017 – an increase of 25.5%.
  • In 2020, 3% of all deaths in the US were due to alcohol.
  • There are more than 380 deaths every day in the United States due to excessive alcohol use.

Alcohol Addiction use disorder (AUD) in the United States

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic condition that can have serious consequences for an individual’s personal health and well-being, as well as their family, friends, work, and other important relationships.

  • 25.1% of US adults have had at least one day of binge drinking in the last year. A binge drink session is one of the most dangerous forms of alcohol consumption and it is linked to a wide range of issues, including mental health problems, emergency room visits, and premature death.
  • Approximately 14.5 million adults in the US had an alcohol use disorder in 2019 alone.
  • Approximately 414,000 adolescents (an age group defined as being between the ages of 12 and 17) had an AUD in 2019.
  • Less than 10% of people with an alcohol use disorder receive any substance abuse treatment.

Drug Abuse Statistics for Different Demographics

Although the prevalence rates of alcohol use disorder are higher among men than women, the gap between the two genders is closing. Substance addiction statistics show that men have a higher rate of drug use and alcohol use than women, but women are more likely than men to seek addiction treatment for their alcohol or drug use.

  • Young adults and college students are more likely than other demographics to engage in drug abuse (a category that includes marijuana and other illicit drugs), with 34.6% of young adults between 18 to 25 years of age reporting past year illicit drug abuse.
  • Substance abuse disorders involving marijuana are significantly more common among men than among women, with 39.6% of men reporting this form of drug abuse compared to 29.6% of women.
  • Between 1999 and 2019, drug abuse deaths increased from 6.4 per 100,000 people in urban areas. The increase in drug overdose deaths in rural areas was even more dramatic, rising from 4.0 to 19.6 per 100,000. This is of particular concern because quality addiction treatment programs tend to be less accessible in rural areas.
  • Alcoholism is more common among people with family incomes of less than $25,000.

Statistics on Ethnicity/ Race

Rates of alcohol use disorder are higher among individuals of certain ethnic and racial groups than among others, in part because of discrimination and unequal access to quality mental illness and addiction treatment programs.

  • Estimates for past year alcohol abuse among White people were higher than all other racial/ethnic groups.
  • According to the Mental Health Services Administration, estimates for past year illicit drug abuse were higher for people reporting two or more races and for indigenous people.

Consequences for Families in the United States

Alcohol and drug use affect the person who is struggling with addiction, but there are also a wide range of harms that alcohol and other drugs inflict on family members indirectly. Children and adolescents are in a particularly vulnerable age group, and far too many of them are exposed to heroin addiction, drug overdoses, and the abuse of controlled substances.

  • Between 2009 and 2014, 1 in 8 children (8.7 million) lived in households with at least one parent who had a substance use disorder.
  • Between 2009 and 2014, 1 in 10 children (7.5 million) lived in a household where at least one parent had an alcohol use disorder.
  • Drug abuse statistics published by the Mental Health Services Administration show that between 2009 and 2014, 1 in 35 children (2.1 million) lived in a household where at least one parent had an illicit drug use disorder.
  • The majority of children living in such households are under the age of 5.

Youth Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can begin at any age. Unfortunately, underage alcohol use and drug abuse is more likely to lead to addiction problems later on. For people who begin to use drugs or drink alcohol before their brains are fully developed, it is crucial to have access to treatment centers before the problem gets out of hand.

  • Two thirds of students have tried alcohol by 12th grade.
  • One fifth of all 12th graders have engaged in pharmaceutical drug abuse without a prescription.
  • 15% of high school students have used injection drugs and illicit drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, inhalants, ecstasy, and meth.
  • 14% of high school students report misusing prescription opioids, which is one of the most life-threatening forms of drug abuse.

Underage drinking in the United States

Adolescents and young adults have the highest rates of alcohol use disorder of any age group. Alcohol use disorder is particularly common among young people in their late teens and early 20s. This is partly due to the fact that this age group is more likely to engage in binge drinking, a specific pattern of excessive alcohol use which is particularly risky, as well as other forms of excessive alcohol use.

  • In the last 30 days, 29% of all high school students drank alcohol, 14% binge drank, 5% drove while intoxicated, and 17% rode with an intoxicated driver.
  • 9% of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported binge drinking (which is associated with the greatest amount of alcohol related harms) in the last 30 days, and 16% reported drinking alcohol.
  • In 2019 alone, 24.6% of 14 to 15-year-olds reported drinking at least one alcoholic beverage.
  • In 2019 alone, 7 million young people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported drinking more than “just a few sips” in the last month.

Statistics on Addiction to Specific Substances

Marijuana abuse

  • In 2018, more than 11.8 million young people abused cannabis.
  • Rates of marijuana abuse among 8th through 10th grade students have increased in the last few years, partly due to the prevalence of vaping products.
  • Marijuana is the most widely abused illegal drug in the United States, with 18% of Americans (48.2 million people) using it in 2019.
  • 3 in 10 people who consume marijuana have a marijuana use disorder. Unfortunately, this form of drug abuse often goes unrecognized, and people with this substance use disorder often fail to seek addiction treatment.
  • 5.1% of US citizens over the age of 12 had a marijuana use disorder in the last 12 months.

Cocaine Abuse

  • 1.9% of US citizens over the age of 12 reported using cocaine in the last 12 months, which translates to 5.2 million people.
  • Among people over the age of 12 in the US, 0.5%, or 1.3 million people, had a cocaine use disorder in the last 12 months. Only a fraction of this people will ever seek substance abuse treatment for this particular substance use disorder.
  • 19,447 people died from overdosing on cocaine in 2020 alone.
  • The rate of cocaine overdoses remained steady between 2009 and 2013, but it increased dramatically between 2013 and 2018, rising from 1.6 per 100,000 to 4.5 per 100,000.

Heroin Abuse

  • Heroin-involved overdose death rates were nearly seven times higher in 2020 than in 1999, reaching a rate of more than four deaths per every 100,000 Americans.
  • More than 13,000 people died from a heroin overdose in the United States in 2020.
  • Almost 20% of all opioid overdoses involve heroin.
  • Between 2002 and 2013, approximately 169,000 people tried heroin for the first time each year.
  • Approximately 0.3% of the US population abuses heroin, which translates to 681,000 people.

Prescription Drugs (Rx) Abuse

  • 5.8% of US citizens over the age of 12 reported misusing psychotherapeutic drugs in the past 12 months, which translates to 16.1 million people.
  • 2.2% of US citizens over the age of 12 reported misusing prescription sedatives or tranquilizers in the past 12 months, which translates to 6.2 million people.
  • 1.8% of US citizens over the age of 12 reported misusing prescription stimulants in the past 12 months, which translates to 5.1 million people.
  • 1.7% of US citizens over the age of 12 reported misusing benzodiazepines in the past 12 months, which translates to 4.8 million people.
  • 3.3% of US citizens over the age of 12 reported misusing prescription pain relievers in the past 12 months, which translates to 9.3 million people.
  • 4.4% of 12th graders reported misusing at least one prescription drug in the last 12 months.

Alcohol abuse (Alcohol Addiction Statistics)

  • Excessive alcohol consumption is known to cause more than 200 disease and injury conditions.
  • Among people aged 20-39 years, 13.5% of all deaths are due to excessive alcohol intake.
  • More than 50% of US adults report drinking alcohol in the last 30 days, with 16% reporting binge drinking and 6% reporting heavy drinking.
  • Between 2015 and 2019, 140,000 deaths were the direct result of excessive alcohol use.
  • 3.6 million years of potential life are lost each year due to excessive alcohol intake.

Inhalants Abuse

  • While inhalants are not the most popular product for drug abuse, drug abuse statistics show that in 2020 0.9% of people in the US over the age of 12 reported using inhalants, which translates to 2.4 million people.
  • 4.8% of 8th graders reported using inhalants in 2021.
  • 0.1% of US citizens age 12 and over, or 215,000 people, suffer from an inhalant use disorder.

Methamphetamines Abuse

  • 2.6 million people in the United States have used methamphetamine in the last 12 months.
  • 0.2% of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders used methamphetamine in the last 12 months.
  • 1.5 million people in the US, or 0.6% of the population, had a methamphetamine use disorder in 2020.
  • In 2020 alone, an estimated 23,837 people died from an overdose involving crystal meth.

Frequently asked questions on Drug & Addiction Statistics

What percentage of the population has an addiction?

  • 10% of US adults experience a drug use disorder at some point in their lives, and it is likely an even higher percentage engages in drug abuse without ever developing an addiction.
  • In the past year, 4% of Americans met the criteria for a drug use disorder in the last year.

What is the largest cause of addiction?

  • The main factors that influence a person’s likelihood of developing a drinking or drug abuse problem are their genetics, their environment, and their early childhood experiences.
  • Prescription drugs are currently the largest driving force behind substance abuse fatalities, recently becoming the 4th leading cause of death in the United States after strokes.

How many people in the United States are affected by substance abuse?

  • 21 million Americans suffer from a substance use disorder, with the number of people engaging in dangerous substance abuse estimated to be even higher than that.
  • However, people who are not themselves addicted also suffer. 20% of Americans report knowing someone who has died from a prescription painkiller overdose.

What is the percentage of alcoholics in the United States?

  • 5.8% of US adults met the criteria for an alcohol use disorder in 2018.
  • Only 10% of adults who drink excessively have alcohol use disorders.

How many deaths are caused in the US by alcohol abuse every year?

  • Over 140,000 people die every year in the US from excessive alcohol intake.
  • Excessive drinking shortens the lives of those who died by an average of 26 years.
  • Death involving alcohol usually involves adults over the age of 35 – usually males.

What percent of the US is addicted to drugs?

  • 10% of US adults experience a drug use disorder at some point in their lives.
  • 4% of Americans met the criteria for a drug use disorder in the last year.
  • Only 25% of US adults with drug use disorders ever receive any kind of addiction treatment.


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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