How Many People are Addicted to Drugs in the US?

Drug addiction is at an all-time high in the United States. Study after study shows us that drug use is on the rise. From the opioid crisis reaching every corner of the nation to illegal drugs still finding their ways into children’s hands, drug addiction affects one in every ten Americans.

What do the statistics tell us about America’s substance abuse crisis? More importantly: what can we do about prevention, treatment, and more?

The Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap (CATG) 2010 initiative reviewed the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This report is released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

This report review helps legislators, healthcare professionals, and others lobby for change in Washington and throughout the country to help those who can’t afford treatment get the help they need for illicit drug use and alcohol abuse.

According to Dr. Kima Joy Taylor, CATG Director, “Our society and our health care system have been slow to recognize and respond to addiction as a chronic, but treatable, condition. While change doesn’t happen overnight, if health care reform is implemented properly, millions of Americans will finally have insurance coverage for addiction treatment. This is a historic step toward a comprehensive, integrated approach to health care that includes treatment of addiction.”

What the Data Tells Us About Drug Addiction in the US

Let’s get right to the data. It says more than any words could say about the drug addiction crisis in America.

The CATG report tells us:

  • 23-million Americans suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. 1 in 10 Americans who have a drug or alcohol problem get the help they need to overcome it.
  • The number one reason for lack of treatment is the cost or lack of insurance. Even those getting treatment often pay out of pocket because insurance doesn’t cover all of it.
  • Funding for addiction treatment often comes from the government. 77% of treatment costs are paid by local, state, and federal governments. Private insurance only covers about 10% of treatment costs in comparison.
  • Less than 7% of those with addiction issues were referred to treatment by primary healthcare providers.

Keep in mind the CATG report was released in 2010. It has been the standard for those lobbying for more federal resources for addiction treatment in the US. Another study of this magnitude with the specific goal of highlighting funding inequality has not been conducted since.

According to more recent statistics, we know:

  • There have been more than 700,000 drug overdose deaths in the US since 2000.
  • More than 31.9 million Americans aged 12 years or older are now illegal drug users.
  • More than 53 million Americans aged 12 years or older misused prescription drugs or used illegal drugs.
  • 70% of drug users who have tried their first illegal substance by the age of 13 developed substance use disorders by the time they’re 20.
  • The misuse of prescription opioids is on the rise, with more than 284,000 cases of exposure in 2018 alone.
  • Drug overdoses involving synthetic opioids, like tramadol and fentanyl, have increased 10% between 2017 and 2018.
  • Marijuana is still the most used illegal drug in the US. Despite being legal in many states, it is still a federally illegal substance. Cocaine, Ecstasy, LSD, Methamphetamine, and Heroin round out the US's top illegal drugs outside prescription medication.
  • Stimulant use has risen across all ages and demographics in the US since 2000. With drugs like Adderall and Ritalin being prescribed to treat ADHD and other attention disorders, the likelihood children are exposed under 12 continues to rise.
  • As of 2018, more than 140 million Americans aged 12 years and older regularly consume alcohol. 67.1% engage in binge drinking, and 2.2 million teens drink periodically. Alcohol use disorder is on the rise.
  • The US averages about 88,000 alcohol-related deaths per year.

The statistics don’t lie. Substance abuse and alcohol dependency are on the rise year-over-year. This is a public health crisis.

How First Responders Are Impacted by Drug Addiction

First responders, like all Americans, are exposed to trials and tribulations throughout their lives. They also have access to the same drugs and alcohol everyone else does. However, what they see and what they face daily is nothing compared to what most of us will face in a lifetime. The stress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that come with a first responder's work are enough to drive anyone to cope with drugs or alcohol.

If you or a loved one suffer from a substance abuse problem, First Responders First can help. We have a unique insight into what first responders go through, what treatment is sufficient for them, and how to help them get back in the field doing what they love day in and day out. Contact us today to find out how we can help you or your loved ones avoid becoming another statistic.