How Many People are Addicted to Drugs in the US?

Addiction is a brain disease that causes compulsive actions despite them having harmful consequence(s). An addiction can be either behavioral or substance based. While there may be a legitimate need for substances initially, when the use of them causes a person to have an intense focus on the substance or affects the person’s ability to function in everyday life, that person may have a Substance Use Disorder, otherwise know as an Addiction.

Some indications of addiction are a strong craving to use the substance, social problems at school, work or home, engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviors during the course of substance abuse, and/or an increased tolerance to and withdrawal effect from the substance. There are many types of substances that people can become addicted to, and they are usually grouped together by their affect on the human body. Some examples are alcohol and tranquilizers, which are central nervous system depressants; PCP and LSD, which are hallucinogens; cocaine and methamphetamine, which are stimulants, and marijuana, which is in its own category.

How Many People Are Addicted to Different Types of Drugs

In 2017, an estimated 19.7 million Americans were struggling with a substance use disorder. During that same year, about 12.5 percent of Americans had both an alcohol and a drug use problem at the same time. Nearly a million Americans have a problem with cocaine abuse; 652,000 with heroine, and 0.6 percent of Americans over 12 abuse pain relievers. More than five percent of college students used marijuana every day, and over four million Americans over 12 had a marijuana abuse disorder.

The use and abuse of alcohol is by far the substance with the highest rate of misuse. More than five percent of Americans over age 12 have this problem and nearly 100,000 Americans die from alcohol related problems every year. Alcohol abuse was the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in 2017, and this substance causes almost half of the country’s liver disease and creates 40 percent of the hospital bed patients. One in ten American children live in a home with a parent who has an alcohol abuse problem.

Addiction Numbers by Age & Gender

In 2017, about 4 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 had a substance use disorder. About 1/8 percent had an alcohol use disorder, while another 3 percent battled illicit drug use. For adults aged 18 to 25, nearly 15 percent battled addition. Ten percent abused alcohol, while more than 7 percent abused illicit substance and there was overlap where some of these young adults used both.

More than six percent of adults over the of 26, had an addiction. Of these, about five percent abused alcohol while 2 percent abused illicit drugs. Further, more than one million elderly Americans were addicted to substances, and between 21 and 66 percent also had a mental health problem at the same time. Men are more likely to suffer from addiction at about 9.4 percent compared to 5.2 percent for women.

Addiction Numbers by Race & Socioeconomic Condition
In order from highest percentage to lowest, Americans Indians and Alaskan Natives had a 12.8 percent rate of addiction; white individuals had a 7.7 percent rate; more than 6.5 percent of each African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, about 4.6 percent of pacific islanders, and 3.8 percent of Asian Americans. The number of unemployed people who battle substance abuse is 17 percent which is nearly double the employed population at nine percent. More than 65 percent of the jail population has an addiction problem.


Addiction, also known as substance abuse, is a disease that causes people to have strong compulsions to use addictive substances like illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol despite the negative consequences. People who suffer with addiction problems, may be addicted to more than one substance and may incur serious financial, social and/or health problems.

While the causes of substance abuse may be different for each of those who suffers from it, there is hope on the road to recovery. When you’re ready to take your first step on that road, give us a call at 844-639-8371. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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