How Common Is Substance Use Disorder?

It turns out the U.S. is not only the land of the free but also a hotbed of addiction. And this is well substantiated by multiple studies, one of which was in a report released by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. According to that study, an estimated 21 million Americans have a substance use disorder of one kind or another. It further notes that the number of people with such a disorder exceeds that of people living with cancer. Where things get particularly interesting is the sheer variety of substances men, women, and teens are in the habit of abusing. Even more interesting is the relationship between substance use disorders and crime.

The Most Commonly Abused Substances in the U.S.

There is no denying that Americans are partaking in a myriad of illicit substances to get high, but it is painstakingly obvious that they enjoy some more than others. And this is evidenced by a study published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which listed some of the top substances responsible for America’s chronic and pervasive substance abuse problem. Those substances included the following:

Nicotine – Although most people don’t think of nicotine as a drug, it certainly is a drug. Moreover, it is one of the chief ingredients in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Available data shows that some 59% of Americans aged 12 and over abuse nicotine, and most are doing so via cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and tobacco products.

Alcohol – Because it is readily available, alcohol, much like nicotine, is seldom thought of as a drug. As of 2020, studies show that nearly 80% of Americans struggle with binge drinking, high-intensity drinking, or a full-on alcohol use disorder (AUD). The same study also found that 30 people die in alcohol-related traffic accidents daily in the U.S. It also revealed that six people die daily due to alcohol poisoning.

Marijuana – Although marijuana is growing in acceptance, it is still a problem for some people, namely those who don’t indulge responsibly. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), marijuana use increases the risk of being in a traffic accident by 50%. As of 2020, around 18% of Americans admitted to smoking marijuana regularly or semi-regularly.

Prescription painkillers – Most people don’t set out to abuse prescription painkillers, but it does, unfortunately, happen. And this is especially the case when it comes to codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin, and other opioids. For reference, a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed a whopping 2 million people in the U.S. abuse opioids.

Heroin – Some people who abuse opioids eventually transition to heroin, a street-level opioid that is just as powerful and addictive but easier to get. As of the writing of this article, less than 1% of Americans abuse heroin, but that will probably soon change. Studies show roughly 100,000 people experiment with and ultimately get hooked on heroin every year in the U.S.

Methamphetamine – Ranked as one of the most dangerous drugs in America, approximately 964,000 Americans are addicted to methamphetamine, many of whom are just teenagers. Current data shows some 16,000 young adults ages 12 to 17 have a problem with this illegal and highly addictive stimulant.

The Reality of Crime and Substance Use Disorders in America

Crime and substance use disorders go hand-in-hand. A quick stroll through any urban, suburban, or rural community in America will make that glaringly apparent. But for those who need more proof, you need only look at a study published by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, which revealed roughly 26% of all reported arrests in the U.S. are related to drugs. It also noted that over 244,000 people are sent to prison annually because they committed a drug-related crime. But the saga does not end there; the same study data revealed some 80% of inmates in America’s prison system abuse drugs or alcohol.

All told, substance use disorders, not to mention associated crimes, are exceedingly prevalent in America. Fortunately, however, there is a silver lining insofar as more and more people are getting the help they need to break the cycle of addiction. If you’re reading this and feel compelled to do the same, consider speaking with one of our addiction specialists today at 844-639-8371.

Scroll to Top