Drug Addiction Facts And Statistics

Drug addiction can occur with both illegal drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, and prescription drugs, such as opioids and benzodiazepines. Drug use and misuse can transform into addiction, which is the most severe form of the diagnosis drug use disorder. Knowing as much information as possible on addiction through facts and statistics can help professionals learn the best ways to prevent and treat the problem.

Drug addiction is an extensive problem that greatly impacts addicted people as well as their families and society as a whole. Addiction affects people in all walks of life, and it leads to problems that can include financial burdens, relationship difficulties, overdose, health troubles, and an inability to keep up with work, school, and family responsibilities.

Drug addiction facts and statistics help us collectively understand the extent of the problem and factors contributing to it. They also provide information that contributes to solutions, guiding us to the best ways to help those who are addicted and to trends that need to be addressed on a wider level, such as the opioid epidemic.

The Extent of Drug Addiction


The most recent data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) showed that, in 2016, about 7.4 million Americans aged 12 and older (2.7 percent) had an illicit drug use disorder. This disorder includes illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, as well as the misuse of prescription psychotherapeutic drugs such as pain relievers and sedatives.

The main drugs attributed to illicit drug use disorder were marijuana, which affected 4 million Americans, and prescription pain relievers, which impacted 1.8 million Americans.

While drug addiction greatly impacts people on personal and family levels, it also has a significant impact on society. A 2011 study by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) showed that illicit drug use cost the U.S. economy more than $193 billion in 2007. This included costs from healthcare, losses in productivity, and crime.

Drug Addiction Compared to Alcohol Addiction


The NSDUH illicit drug use disorder statistic did not include addiction to alcohol, whereas many statistics include drug and alcohol addiction together under the diagnosis of substance use disorder.

To compare drug addiction to alcohol addiction, of the about 20.1 million Americans with a substance use disorder in the past year, 15.1 million had an alcohol use disorder compared to the 7.4 million people with an illicit drug use disorder.

The reason the numbers do not add up is that many people have a co-occurring addiction to alcohol and one or more illicit drug. In 2016, approximately 2.3 million Americans had both in the past year.

Worldwide Drug Addiction


In 2016, about 62 million people (0.85 percent) globally had a drug use disorder. This number did not include alcohol. Throughout the world, the main drugs attributed to this problem were opioids, which accounted for about 42 percent, and cannabis, which accounted for about 33 percent.

Of the people with a drug use disorder around the world, 40 million were men and 20 million were women. Also, according to best estimates, about 144,000 deaths were directly caused by drug use disorders.

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Risk and Protective Factors of Drug Addiction


The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that genetics play a large role in addiction but that additional factors are involved. It is estimated that genes are responsible for 40 to 60 percent of a person’s risk of addiction. Nonetheless, certain factors in a person’s life increase his or her likelihood of becoming addicted, while other factors reduce the risk.

Some of the risk factors that can lead to addiction include:

  • Experiencing abuse or neglect at home
  • Being influenced by parent or peer drug use
  • Experiencing community poverty
  • Experimenting with drugs, especially early use
  • Having access to drugs
  • Lacking social skills
  • Having mental health disorders
  • Getting poor grades at school
  • Using certain methods of administration, such as smoking or injecting

Factors that can reduce the risk of addiction may include:

  • Strong grades at school
  • Anti-drug school policies
  • Good support and monitoring from parents
  • Community resources
  • Healthy relationships
  • Strong self-control

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of the many factors that could contribute to or protect against addiction.

Drug Addiction Treatment


Statistics on treatment tend to refer to substance use disorder, which means they include both drug and alcohol addiction together. The 2016 NSDUH showed that about 21 million Americans aged 12 or older (7.8 percent) needed treatment for substance use. However, only about 3.8 million Americans (1.4 percent) received treatment, which shows that many people still needed treatment.

Drug addiction is a significant problem that affects a large number of Americans and people worldwide. It not only impacts the addicted people themselves but also their families and the societies they live in. By learning more about drug addiction and solutions to it through facts and statistics, society can work to reduce and manage this public health problem.