Drug Addiction Facts And Statistics

The ramifications of drug addiction extend far beyond the individual; men, women, fathers, mothers, grandparents–even those who’ve never been in contact with illicit substances–are touched by the fallout of addiction. To those unfamiliar with drug abuse, the facts and statistics about addiction in the United States might come as a shock, but those with loved ones suffering from the disease may find solace in knowing that they’re not alone. While the number of men and women suffering from addiction in the U.S. is staggering, it’s important to note that there will always be help for those who seek it.

Monitoring the Future

Every year, the University of Michigan conducts a study called Monitoring the Future, which surveys approximately 40,000 to 50,000 children in grades 8 to 10. The survey asks about drug use among youth, including street drugs like heroin and the newer synthetic drugs that have hit the market. Because most drug addicts use drugs for the first time while they are teenagers, this study serves as a good indicator of what the future of addiction may look like.

Declining Rates of Drug Abuse Among Young People

Fortunately, the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey shows that, overall, the use of a number of substances, including cigarettes, alcohol, prescription opioids, and synthetic marijuana among young people is trending down.

  • Among high school seniors, 23.6% report having used an illicit drug in the past month
  • 7.6% of those students reported having used an illicit drug other than marijuana

“We are heartened to see that most illicit drug use is not increasing, non-medical use of prescription opioids is decreasing, and there is improvement in alcohol and cigarette use rates,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA.


  • 31.9% of high school seniors consider regular marijuana use to be risky, compared to 36.1% the year before
  • The use of synthetic marijuana among 12th graders has decreased from 11.4% in 2011 (the first year it was measured in the survey) to 5.2% in 2015


  • The use of heroin among teens has always been low, but it reached a record low in 2015 at a small 0.3% for 8th graders and 0.5% among 12th graders
  • The use of prescription opioids also continues its downward trend, with only 4.4% of 12th graders reporting non-medical use, compared to 10.5% in 2003


  • The use of MDMA (also known as Ecstasy or Molly), inhalants, and LSD are generally stable or down.
  • 3.6% of high school seniors reported using MDMA in the last year, compared to 5% in 2014


  • Non-medical use of prescription amphetamines (typically ADHD medication Adderall) remains high at 7.5% among high school seniors

Drug Addiction in the U.S.

Accurate statistics regarding illicit drug use among adults in the U.S. are difficult to nail down, but according to a study at Columbia University, “40 million Americans age 12 and over meet the clinical criteria for addiction involving nicotine, alcohol or other drugs.” An additional 80 million are classified as “risky substance abusers,” meaning they “use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs in ways that threaten public health and safety.” These are sobering numbers, but knowing the statistics can reassure addicts that they’re not alone in their condition.


  • In 2011, over 800,000 people reported being addicted to cocaine.
  • The majority of illicit substance-related emergency room visits in 2011 were cocaine-related.


  • The use of prescription painkillers has increased nearly 300% since 1999. One study suggests that the number of people who use prescription opioids for non-medical purposes could be as high as 15 million.
  • Nearly 75% of all prescription overdoses are caused by painkillers. Prescription opioids cause more overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined.
  • From 2007 to 2011, the number of heroin users nearly doubled. This may be because prescription opioid abusers often turn to heroin when they can no longer access their drug of choice.


  • While hallucinogens are not typically habit-forming, these substances still pose significant dangers.
  • In 2011, an estimated 300,000 people received treatment for hallucinogens. Over 20,000 people received treatment for ecstasy.
  • There are nearly 5,000 LSD-related hospitalizations every year.


  • In 2011, an estimated 430,000 people reported regularly using methamphetamines, an increase of 80,000 from the previous year.
  • The use of prescription amphetamines is rising among college students, with nearly 7% of students using amphetamines illegally.

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Societal Cost of Drug Abuse

Today, the estimated cost of drug abuse to society exceeds $190 billion. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, $130 billion is lost in productivity, $20 billion in healthcare costs, and $40 billion in legal costs, which includes the efforts to cull the flow of drugs. Every man, woman, and child pays approximately $1,000 every year for the expense of health care, law enforcement, crime, lost productivity, and auto accidents stemming from substance abuse.

Helping Those Who Need It

It’s important to remember that overcoming substance abuse is not a matter of willpower. Drug addiction is a chronic disease, and needs to be treated as such. As the nation’s understanding of addiction as a disease grows, so too does the number of treatment programs available, to stem the negative effects of drug use, and help people find a path to recovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, reach out to us today. No one suffering from addiction should become just a statistic–treatment can help them lead a life full of healing and hope.