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41 Addiction Statistics & Facts That Will Startle You

by Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, MD

No matter if it’s dependence on nicotine, alcohol, drugs, or pills, addiction takes thousands of lives every year, and millions of people suffer from its consequences. Addiction is a kind of mental disorder that compels people to use various substances and engage in dangerous behaviors, even if they’re aware of their impact. It usually stems from (emotional) pain but ends up engulfing you in a vicious cycle that only brings even more pain.

The following addiction statistics show that addiction to anything can cause serious harm if it’s untreated. Luckily, there’s an abundance of clinics and rehab centers that can help in treating addiction. It’s crucial to know the facts and statistics about addiction in order to prevent it or help someone who is suffering. They can also serve as a form of emotional support so that those who are addicted know that they aren’t alone in this and can always ask for help.

The Top 10 Statistics on Addiction

  • 22.1 million Americans meet the criteria for a drug or substance abuse disorder.
  • About 50 million Americans are addicted to at least one type of tobacco product.
  • 90% of smokers started smoking before they turned 18.
  • 31 million people suffer from drug abuse disorders.
  • 164 million people suffered from alcohol or drug abuse disorders in 2016.
  • Young people aged 18 to 25 are the most likely to engage in prescription drug abuse.
  • 30% of marijuana users are in danger of developing a marijuana use disorder.
  • 7.5 million people aged 15–34 have used cocaine at least once.
  • 80% of people who abuse heroin started out by abusing prescription opioids.
  • 1.7 million people abused meth in 2017.

General Facts and Stats on Addiction

Addiction Statistics - Addict

1. 40%–60% of an individual’s risk for addiction comes from genetics.

(American Addiction Centers)

Environmental factors also play a major role in developing an addiction. Abusive parents, parents who suffer from addiction, dysfunctional homes, social pressure, peers’ attitudes toward addictive substances, and the attitude of the community have a major impact on whether a person will develop an addiction. People with mental disorders and teenagers are at the greatest risk of developing a substance addiction.

2. In 2014, 11.2 million people were arrested for drug-related charges, according to the addiction stats.

(Drug Rehab)

Among these, there were 1.5 million charges for drug abuse, 1.1 million for driving under the influence, 414,000 for drunkenness, and 321,000 for liquor violations. As a note, possession of marijuana was the most common drug abuse violation. This makes drug-related charges the most common reason for arrest.

3. In 2016, around 50% of federal inmates had been incarcerated for drug-related convictions.

(Drug Rehab)

Since the war on drugs started in the 1970s, there’s been a major increase in drug-based arrests in the United States. Substance abuse facts show that the number of inmates arrested for drug charges in 1980 was 4,749, in 1990 there were 24,297 inmates, in 2000 there were 74,276, and in 2010 there were 97,800 inmates incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

4. In 2015, President Obama proposed a $1.1 billion additional budget for fighting the addiction and drug problem in America.

(Drug Rehab)

The opinion of the public and the policies on drugs have started to shift dramatically in the last couple of years. The various facts about drugs have taught us that addiction is a disease, and we must find a way to help those who suffer from it—and help them in their recovery—without judging them.

5. In 2013, 54.1% of all new drug users were younger than 18.

(Drug Rehab)

There are various causes of drug addiction, like the previously mentioned genetics and environment. Most drug facts indicate that what makes our bodies crave addictive substances and dangerous behavior is a physical change in our brain, which expresses negative reactions if those cravings are not satisfied.

6. In 2013, about 24.6 million Americans older than 12 participated in illicit drug use.

(NIH)

That makes up 9.4% of the population. Drug use in America has been on a steady rise—in 2002 only 8.3% of the population aged 12 and older has used illicit drugs. The most commonly used illegal drug in the united states is marijuana. 

7. 22.1 million Americans meet the criteria for a drug or substance abuse disorder.

(Mental Help)

That’s 8.9% of the entire population of the United States. 2.9 million of this group could be classified for having both a substance use disorder for illicit drugs and alcohol abuse disorder, 4.2 million for a substance use disorder for illicit drugs, and 15 million for a substance use disorder for alcohol.

Nicotine and Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Addiction Statistics - Cigarettes & Alcohol

8. About 50 million Americans are addicted to some kind of tobacco product.

(Addiction Center)

Nicotine addiction includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, and other tobacco products. This is the most common addiction in America. Not many people find nicotine addiction very dangerous, since the effects of this substance are less intense than other substances. It can’t cause euphoria or high levels of energy, like cocaine, for example, but it does affect a person’s blood pressure and respiration.

9. 90% of smokers started smoking before they turned 18.

(Addiction Center)

According to the nicotine addiction facts, most people start smoking because society sees it as “cool.” Research shows that teenagers usually start smoking because they see famous people smoking. Unfortunately, the younger an individual is when they start smoking, the harder it is to quit the habit later in life.

10. Since 2005, the rates of smoking have dropped by 5% among those aged 12 to 17 years.

(Addiction Center)

Nowadays, teenagers are educated on the risks of nicotine addiction, so the number of those who start smoking is on a steady decrease. While the rates of smoking in this age group are decreasing, unfortunately, the rates of nicotine addiction in the 18–25 age group aren’t improving.

11. Alcohol addiction statistics report that 2.5 million Americans were treated for alcohol abuse in 2005.

(Drug-Free World)

3.9 million US adults received treatment for substance abuse in the same year. The staggering number of 16 million people stated that they binge drank or drank heavily within a month of being surveyed. Binge drinking among women is defined as consuming four or more drinks on one occasion, and for men it’s five or more drinks. Heavy drinking is eight or more drinks for women and 15 or more drinks for men on a weekly basis.

12. The alcohol addiction facts also show that young drinkers are 7.5 times more likely to use illicit drugs.

(Drug-Free World)

Research also shows that 32% of heavy drinkers use illicit drugs. Over three-quarters of Americans try alcohol before they turn 25. Young heavy drinkers are also 50 times more likely to start using cocaine than those who never drink.

13. 5.3 million women suffer from alcohol use disorder.

(Talbott Recovery)

18% of women over the age of 18 binge drink, according to the alcohol statistics. Alcohol abuse disorder in women increased by 87.3% from 2002 to 2013. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that high-risk drinking (more than three drinks a day or more than seven per week) has increased by 58%, as well.

14. In 2010, the United States suffered $249 billion in costs due to alcohol addiction.

(AlcoRehab)

Even if a person is a functioning alcoholic, their productivity levels are low due to their unhealthy lifestyle. This leads to an economic burden for the state since drinking abuse and drinking-related injuries and accidents drain the economy.

15. As for how many people die from alcohol each year, the number has reached 100,000.

(Talbott Recovery) (NIAAA)

Every year in just the US, 100,000 people die from falls, fires, drunk-driving accidents, various injuries, homicide, suicide, and other horrible accidents all related to drinking unsafely. On a global level, 3.3 million deaths were caused by alcohol abuse. This is 5.9% of all deaths in the world. In 2010, this was the fifth most common cause of premature death.

16. How many families in the US are affected by alcoholism?

(Alcoholism Statistics)

6.6 million children younger than 18 have at least one parent who suffers from alcohol abuse disorder. At this point, almost 14 million adult Americans abuse alcohol, and an even greater number drive under the influence. Also, 53% of Americans admit that they have at least one relative with a drinking problem, and 43% report that they have a parent, sibling, or partner suffering from an alcohol abuse disorder.

17. Every year, almost 40,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

(NOFAS)

According to recent alcoholism statistics, this is 1 in every 100 babies. FASD is usually caused by drinking during pregnancy. The damage can range anywhere from mild to serious. A great number of disorders, like fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), partial fetal alcohol syndrome, birth defects related to alcohol, neurodevelopmental disorders related to alcohol, and others are a part of FASD. These disorders can impact a child’s psychological and physical development. People who suffer from FAS may have problems with hearing, vision, learning, communication, memory, and so on.

Drug Addiction Statistics

Addiction Statistics - Drugs

18. 31 million people suffer from a drug abuse disorder.

(WHO)

The World Health Organization develops, organizes, monitors, and evaluates the treatment of people suffering from drug abuse disorders in various countries around the world. Around 11 million people have used drugs via injection—and 1.3 million of them are living with HIV. In addition, 5.5 million have hepatitis C, and 1 million suffer from both hepatitis C and HIV. 

19. According to global drug abuse statistics, 5%–6% of people in Eastern Europe and the US suffer from drug abuse disorders.

(Our World in Data)

1 in every 20 people suffers from a drug abuse disorder in these regions. Drug dependence across the rest of Europe, the Americas, and Oceania ranges from 2% to 5%. In Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, drug abuse is around 1% to 2%. On a global level, drug abuse is much higher in men than in women.

20. 164 million people suffered from alcohol or drug abuse disorders in 2016.

(Our World in Data)

Our substance abuse statistics show that out of that number, 111 million (around 68%) were men. Research shows that in 1990, the number of men who abused various substances was a bit less than 80 million, and it was under 40 million among women. It has since been on a steady rise, and in 2008, the overall total surpassed the 150 million mark.

21. In 2017, 0.9% of the world population had a drug use disorder.

(Our World in Data)

That’s 71 million people in a single year. On a global level, according to our drug addiction facts, the most common age group for drug abuse is the twenties. 1 in 50 people aged 20 to 29 suffers from a drug abuse disorder. In the United States, 8%–10% of people in their early twenties have a drug abuse disorder. 

22. In 2014, 50% of Americans admitted to using some kind of illicit drug.

(Drug Rehab)

And one-third of them admitted that they’ve used an illicit drug other than marijuana. 37.63 million people have used cocaine, 4.8 million have used heroin, 24.77 million have tried LSD, and 17.8 million have tried ecstasy.

23. Drug use statistics show that 1 million people over the age of 65 suffered from a substance use disorder in 2017.

(American Addiction Centers)

Around 978,000 people over 65 suffered from alcohol use disorder in the same year, and about 93,000 suffered from illicit drug use disorder. Two-thirds of them developed the disorder before the age of 65. Also, between 21% and 66% of these people suffer from a mental health disorder.

24. Almost 4% of American teenagers suffered from a substance use disorder in 2017.

(American Addiction Centers)

These teenage drug use statistics mean that around 992,000 people aged 12 to 17 suffer from this disorder. Approximately 443,000 teenagers suffered from alcohol use disorder. In addition, 741,000 suffered from illicit drug use disorder, which makes up 3% of this age group.

25. 5.1 million young people aged 18 to 25 suffered from a substance use disorder in 2017.

(American Addiction Centers)

This means that 1 in 7 people, or 14.8% of this population, suffered from a substance use disorder. Our drug statistics also show that approximately 10% of all young adults, or 3.4 million, suffered from an alcohol use disorder, and around 2.5 million, or 7.3% of all young adults, suffered from an illicit drug use disorder. Unfortunately, heroin use has also doubled in the last decade in this age group.

26. 13.6 million adults over the age of 26 suffered from a substance use disorder in 2017.

(American Addiction Centers)

This makes up 6.4% of the population from this age group. In addition, 5% of the people from this group suffered from an alcohol use disorder. That counts 10.6 million adults, according to our addiction facts. 2% of adults, or approximately 4.3 million, suffered from an illicit drug use disorder. Men of all age groups are more likely to abuse drugs than women. However, women are just as prone to addiction.

27. The rate of substance use disorder was 12.8% among Native Americans and Alaska Natives in 2017.

(American Addiction Centers)

These groups together had the highest substance abuse rate in 2017. Whites had a 7.7% rate, and 4.6% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders suffered from a substance use disorder. 6.8% African Americans and 6.6% of Hispanics or Latinos had a substance use disorder. Finally, Asian Americans had the lowest rate, at 3.8%.

Prescription Drug Abuse Facts

Addiction Statistics - Prescription Drugs

28. Young people aged 18 to 25 are the most likely to have problems with prescription drug abuse.

(NIH)

According to opioid addiction statistics, and statistics about other prescription drugs, the abuse of opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants, anti-anxiety drugs, and sleeping pills are some of the addictions young adults risk developing. But why do people use drugs? This age group does it for various reasons. Some think they’ll study better or remember more, and some use them to get high.

29. According to prescription drug abuse statistics, 1,700 people died from prescription drugs in 2014.

(NIH)

Of course, prescription drug addiction is just as dangerous as any other drug addiction. This is almost 5 people per day. For every death from prescription drug abuse, there were 22 treatment admissions, and 119 ER visits. 6% of teenagers (12–17-year-olds) abused prescription drugs in 2014. 12% of young adults (18–25-year-olds) and 5% of people over the age of 25 have abused prescription drugs.

30. 18 million people have abused prescription drugs at least once in their lives.

(Drug Abuse) (Gateway Foundation)

The most abused prescription drugs include painkillers like fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone, followed by barbiturates like Nembutal. Popular prescription drugs are also benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax, and sedative-hypnotics like Ambien. Antidepressants like Zoloft and Prozac, as well as stimulants like Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Adderall, have also made it to the list of the most commonly abused prescription drugs.

Abuse of prescription opioids is now a serious health issue in the United States—there are almost 5,480 new people every day who misuse prescription drugs.

Marijuana Addiction Statistics

Addiction Statistics - Cannabis

31. 30% of marijuana users are in danger of developing a marijuana use disorder.

(NIH)

Research shows that regular use of marijuana may lead to a marijuana use disorder. It’s also proven that people who start using marijuana before the age of 18 have a 4–7 times higher chance of developing a marijuana use disorder. A marijuana use disorder can also cause dependence, and a person dependent on marijuana risks experiencing symptoms of withdrawal.

32. 4 million people in the US met the criteria for a marijuana use disorder in 2015.

(NIH)

Our marijuana addiction facts report that out of that number, only 138,000 voluntarily asked for treatment for marijuana abuse. Like with other addictions and disorders, marijuana use disorder turns into an addiction when an individual can’t stop using it even though it affects their life in a negative way. Some studies claim that 9% of all marijuana users develop a dependency, and that number rises to 17% if they started using it before the age of 17.

33. The average marijuana extract is 50%–80% THC.

(NIH) (Newsweek)

In the early 90s, the average THC content in marijuana was around 3.8%. In 2014, it reached 12.2%, and that number has dramatically risen since. This also demonstrates the dangers of marijuana use, although the number of marijuana deaths per year has not yet reached an alarming stage. The first marijuana-related death in the US was recorded in 2019 when a woman from Louisiana overdosed from vaping THC oil.

Cocaine, Heroin, and Meth Abuse

Addiction Statistics - Heroin

34. 7.5 million people aged 15–34 have used cocaine at least once.

(Drug-Free World)

3.5 million people had tried it in the previous year, and 1.5 million in the previous month when surveyed. This is the second most trafficked illegal drug in the world. The largest quantities intercepted were in South Africa and North America. The latest cocaine statistics show that 35.3 million Americans older than 12 have used cocaine, and 8.6% have also tried crack, its crystal form.

35. In 2005, there were 448,481 ER visits due to cocaine abuse.

(Drug-Free World)

This is one of the most abused drugs in America. In 2006, 8.5% of high school students—twelfth graders in particular—had tried cocaine at some point in their lives, according to the Monitoring the Future Study by the National Institute for Drug Abuse.

36. 80% of people who have abused heroin started out by abusing prescription opioids.

(NIH)

2011’s heroin statistics report that 4%–6% of people who suffer from prescription drug use disorder switch to heroin. However, heroin is usually the first opioid people use. It enters the brain quickly and binds to opioid receptors, especially the ones located in areas that control sleeping, breathing, and heart rate, as well as the feelings of pain and pleasure.

37. In 2017, almost 494,000 people admitted they’d used heroin in the previous year.

(CDC)

The use of this drug has been on a steady increase lately, and the heroin addiction facts report that people of all age groups and all income levels are affected by it. In 2015, there were 81,326 ER visits due to heroin-related poisonings in the US alone. And in 2013, 9 in 10 people who used heroin also used other drugs.

38. The number of heroin-related deaths rose by 5 times from 2010 to 2017.

(CDC)

More than 15,000 people died from a heroin overdose in 2017—almost 5 deaths for every 100,000 Americans—according to our heroin addiction statistics. The highest rate of heroin-related deaths in 2017 was among men aged 25–44, which was nearly 15 people for every 100,000. Nevertheless, this was a decrease of 4.5% compared to 2016.

39. 13 million people older than 12 used meth in 2008.

(Drug-Free World)

Out of that number, 529,000 were regular users. Approximately 500 metric tons of meth are produced every year. 20%–60% of those who seek treatment for drug abuse are regular meth users. According to our meth addiction facts, 4.5% of high school students in America have used meth at least once.

40. 1.7 million people abused meth in 2017.

(NIH)

Out of that number, 774,000 people had used it in the previous month. The average age of new meth users is 23 years. Around 964,000 people older than 12 suffered from a meth use disorder in the same year, which is a dramatically higher number than 2016’s 684,000, according to the meth statistics.

41. The number of deaths caused by a meth-related overdose increased by 7.5 times from 2007 to 2017.

(NIH)

Approximately 15% of drug-related overdoses included meth, while 50% of those deaths were caused by opioids. In 2017, the states with the highest number of deaths from meth overdoses were Washington, Colorado, Texas, Florida, and Georgia.

Conclusion

It’s always overwhelming to discover that someone close to you is suffering from a drug abuse disorder. That’s why it’s vital to know all the scary and astounding addiction statistics and facts so you can recognize the addiction and offer help and support. Nowadays, various clinics and support groups are available, and addiction is considered a highly treatable disease. 

If you think that you or one of your loved ones may be suffering from a substance use disorder, please seek professional help. We hope that our stats and facts will inform you of the dangers of substance abuse and help you with your or your loved one’s battle against drugs.

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