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Drug Abuse Statistics and Research: Comprehensive Guide


Drug abuse remains a pervasive issue, affecting individuals, families, and communities across the United States and worldwide. Despite ongoing efforts to curb the problem, the numbers remain staggering. This comprehensive analysis aims to shed light on the statistics surrounding different categories of drug abuse, from opioids to stimulants, and from depressants to hallucinogens. By understanding these figures, we can collectively address the issue more effectively.

Narcotic Abuse Dominates: Opioids, particularly synthetic types like Fentanyl, represent a significant portion of drug abuse, with a reported 808,000 users of heroin in the U.S. alone in 2018.

Depressants Are a Silent Crisis: Prescription tranquilizers and sedatives are misused by millions, with 5.7 million people misusing prescription tranquilizers and another 1 million misusing prescription sedatives as of 2018.

Rising Concerns Over Stimulant Abuse: Stimulant abuse includes both illegal drugs and prescription medications, with 1.8 million persons in the U.S. reporting methamphetamine use, and 5.5 million reporting cocaine use in 2018.

Alcohol: The Overlooked Epidemic: Alcohol, a legal substance, is responsible for over 95,150 deaths annually, yet less than 8% of the 15 million individuals with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) receive treatment.

Heroin Overdose Statistics

Heroin is an opioid that has been responsible for a significant number of overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin-related overdose deaths have been on the rise in recent years. But what are the specific numbers? What demographics are most affected?

For a more in-depth look at this topic, check out our Heroin Overdose Statistics page. It provides a comprehensive overview, including age and gender breakdowns, as well as geographical hotspots for heroin overdoses.

Drug-related Crime Statistics

Drug addiction often leads to an increase in drug-related crimes. These crimes can range from possession and distribution to more violent offenses like robbery and assault. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), approximately 1.5 million drug-related arrests were made in the United States in 2020.

For a detailed analysis of drug-related crimes, visit our Drug-related Crime Statistics page. It covers various types of crimes, their frequency, and the legal implications involved.

Hydrocodone (Vicodin) Abuse Statistics

Hydrocodone, commonly known by its brand name Vicodin, is another opioid that has seen a surge in abuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly 11.5 million people misused prescription opioids like Hydrocodone in 2016.

To understand the full scope of Hydrocodone abuse, you can read our Hydrocodone (Vicodin) Abuse Statistics page. It delves into the demographics most affected and the health risks associated with Hydrocodone abuse.

New Jersey Drug and Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Geographical factors can also play a significant role in drug addiction rates. For instance, New Jersey has been grappling with a rise in drug and alcohol abuse. In 2019, New Jersey saw over 3,000 drug-related deaths, a 15% increase from the previous year.

For more localized information, visit our New Jersey Drug and Alcohol Abuse Statistics page. It provides a comprehensive look at the state’s struggle with substance abuse, including county-level data and resources for help.

Workplace Drug Addiction Statistics

Drug addiction doesn’t just affect individuals; it also has a significant impact on workplaces. According to the National Safety Council, substance abuse costs employers over $81 billion annually in lost productivity and additional healthcare costs.

For a deeper understanding of how drug addiction affects the workplace, explore our Workplace Drug Addiction Statistics page. It covers the prevalence of drug abuse in different industries and offers solutions for employers to address this issue.

Narcotic Abuse: Opioids and Beyond

Narcotic abuse primarily revolves around opioids, which can be classified into three categories: naturally sourced, synthetic, and semi-synthetic opioids. In 2018, as many as 808,000 persons reported using heroin, a naturally sourced opioid, in the past year, accounting for 0.3% of the population.

Understanding the Types

  • Naturally sourced opioids: Derived from poppies (Papaver somniferum)
  • Synthetic opioids: Created in labs; examples include methadone, fentanyl, and meperidine
  • Semi-synthetic opioids: Morphine, codeine, heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone

Fentanyl Statistics

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved by the FDA for pain relief and as an anesthetic. However, its abuse potential has skyrocketed, making it one of the most dangerous narcotics today.
  • Since its inception in 2014, the fentanyl crisis in the United States has evolved significantly. The diversity in the supply chain has expanded, with new countries contributing to the global distribution of fentanyl, its analogs, and precursors.
  • China continues to be the dominant supplier of fentanyl and its related compounds. These substances typically enter the U.S. through international postal services and express shipping channels.
  • When it comes to fentanyl crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, the concentration in smuggled pills and tablets is generally below 10%. Mexico has been ramping up its production of fentanyl-infused tablets, which are often smuggled in high volumes but low concentrations. Seizures by the kilogram usually reveal a fentanyl concentration of less than 10%.
  • In the year 2021, U.S. hospitals admitted 22,774 patients for non-lethal opioid overdoses, translating to an annual rate of 19.0 admissions per 100,000 people.
  • Moreover, the death toll from drug overdoses involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogs reached a staggering 71,000 in 2021. This is a monumental increase when compared to the 730 deaths attributed to synthetic opioids back in 1999.

Depressant Abuse: The Silent Culprit

Depressants are used medically to induce sleep and alleviate conditions like anxiety and muscle spasms. In 2018, a concerning 5.7 million people reported misuse of prescription tranquilizers, while another 1 million misused prescription sedatives.

Prolonged use of depressants can lead to physical dependence even at doses recommended for medical treatment. Unlike barbiturates, large doses of benzodiazepines are rarely fatal unless combined with other drugs or alcohol.


Types of Depressants

  • Barbiturates: Butalbital, phenobarbital, and pentothal
  • Benzodiazepines: Valium, Xanax, Halcion, Klonopin

A Note on Rohypnol

Rohypnol is illegal in the US and is commonly used in drug-assisted sexual assaults. (

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Stimulant Abuse: Legal and Illegal Avenues

Stimulants, both legal and illegal, have their own share of abuse. In 2018, 1.8 million persons in the US, or 0.7% of those 12 years and older, reported methamphetamine use. Additionally, 2% or 5.5 million persons reported using cocaine in the same year. (

  • Rise in Stimulant Use Nationwide: The United States is witnessing a surge in the misuse of stimulants. According to the latest figures from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2020 saw an estimated 5.1 million individuals aged 12 or older misusing prescription stimulants. This data is particularly relevant for Nevada, given its role in the national opiate response.
  • Young Adult Demographics Most Affected: Among various age groups, young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are the most prone to prescription stimulant misuse. This trend is crucial for targeted interventions in Nevada, especially among college students and young professionals.
  • Methamphetamine Use on the Rise: The data reveals that approximately 2.6 million people aged 12 or older consumed methamphetamine in the past year. This marks a significant increase of over 36% since 2018, indicating a growing concern for Nevada’s public health officials.
  • Decline in Cocaine Use: Interestingly, the number of individuals aged 12 or older who used cocaine in the past year has decreased. The figure stands at 1.8 million, showing a notable decline from 2018. While this may seem like a positive development, it could also indicate a shift towards other types of stimulants, which is a point of consideration for New Jersey’s opiate response strategy.

Commonly Abused Prescription Stimulants:

  • Adderall: Leads to almost 1,500 emergency room visits every year
  • Ritalin: Serves as a potential gateway drug to harder substances
  • Vyvanse: Despite low initial abuse potential, nonmedical use is prevalent among adolescents

Hallucinogen Abuse: A Surreal Crisis

Hallucinogens like ketamine, mushrooms (Psilocybin), LSD, and MDMA have limited to no medical use in the United States, making them primarily illegal. LSD is noted as one of the most dangerous hallucinogens, causing serious long-term damage.

Marijuana: A Controversial Substance

Marijuana is technically classified as a hallucinogen under the Controlled Substances Act. Approximately 18.7% of Americans over the age of 18 use marijuana at least once over a 12-month period. While it remains illegal under Federal law, according to DEA releases 2020 Drugs of Abuse Resource Guide it is legalized for recreational use in 15 states, generating billions in sales.

Northern New Jersey Drug Rehab Rehab And Marijuana Statistics
  • Prevalence of Marijuana Use: According to the Office Of National Drug Control Policy, Marijuana holds the title of the most frequently used illegal drug in the United States. In 2011, over 18 million Americans aged 12 and older admitted to using marijuana in the past month. This statistic is vital for understanding the scope of drug use, especially for states like New Jersey that are grappling with substance abuse issues.
  • Diagnostic Criteria for Abuse: Around 4.2 million individuals met the diagnostic standards for marijuana abuse or dependence. This number surpasses the combined total for pain relievers, cocaine, tranquilizers, hallucinogens, and heroin, making it a focal point for substance abuse treatment and policies in New Jersey.
  • Emergency Department Visits: In 2010, marijuana was a contributing factor in approximately 461,000 emergency room visits across the U.S. This accounts for nearly 39% of all ER visits related to illicit drug use, underscoring the genuine risks associated with marijuana consumption.
  • Treatment for Marijuana Use: In 2011, about 872,000 Americans aged 12 or older sought treatment specifically for marijuana use, more than for any other illegal drug. This statistic challenges the notion that marijuana is harmless and emphasizes the need for comprehensive drug education and treatment programs, particularly in states like New Jersey.
  • Contradicting the “Harmless” Narrative: Despite some public opinions suggesting that marijuana is benign, these statistics paint a grim picture of the real and significant dangers associated with its use. This data serves as a cautionary tale for policymakers and healthcare providers in New Jersey, urging them to consider the full spectrum of marijuana’s impact on society.

Influence of Substance Use on Violent and Sexual Offenses


The role of substance use in criminal activities, particularly violent and sexual offenses, is significant. Moreover, drugs are often employed to incapacitate victims in sexual offenses.

  • Approximately three-quarters of individuals entering treatment for substance use disorders admit to participating in violent acts. Such acts range from armed robbery and aggravated assault to sexual assault and homicide. (Source: Science Direct)
  • A staggering 160,000 female college students have been victims of drug-enabled sexual assault. In 20% of these cases, physical harm was reported. (Source: U.S. Department of Justice)
  • Over half of women (56%) and nearly half of men (44%) have unknowingly ingested tampered food or beverages. Substances like Rohypnol, GHB, and ketamine are commonly used to impair victims, leading to delayed awareness of the assault. (Source: American Addiction Centers)
  • Around 75% of so-called “acquaintance rapes” involve the use of substances, including alcohol. The lethal mix of alcohol and drugs is increasingly being used as a tool to incapacitate victims for sexual offenses. (Source: West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services)
  • In about two-thirds (67%) of sexual assault cases, the assailants were under the influence of substances. Contrastingly, only 38.1% of the victims were under the influence at the time of the incident. (Source: National Library of Medicine)

These statistics underscore the urgent need for intervention and preventive measures, particularly in the context of substance use and its role in violent and sexual crimes

Alcohol Abuse: The Legal Killer

Though legal, alcohol claims over 95,150 American lives annually. Among the 15 million individuals with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), less than 8% receive treatment.

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 29.5 million people ages 12 and older (10.6% in this age group) had AUD in the past year. This includes:

  • 16.6 million males ages 12 and older (12.1% in this age group) (SAMHSA)
  • 13.0 million females ages 12 and older (9.1% in this age group)(SAMHSA)
  • 18.7 million White people ages 12 and older (11.0% in this age group)(SAMHSA)
  • 3.5 million Black or African American people ages 12 and older (10.1% in this age group)(SAMHSA)
  • 280,000 American Indian or Alaska Native people ages 12 and older (15.6% in this age group)(SAMHSA)
  • 144,000 Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander people ages 12 and older (14.0% in this age group)(SAMHSA)
  • 982,000 Asian people ages 12 and older (6.0% in this age group)(SAMHSA)
  • 790,000 people of two or more races ages 12 and older (14.7% in this age group)(SAMHSA)
  • 5.1 million Hispanic or Latino people ages 12 and older (10.3% in this age group)(SAMHSA)

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What Are The Different Types of Addiction?

Substance Addictions

These encompass addictions to various substances that can be consumed or ingested:

  • Alcohol: A legal but highly addictive substance.
  • Illegal Drugs: Includes substances like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine.
  • Prescription Medications: Abuse of painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants.

Behavioral Addictions

These addictions involve compulsive engagement in behaviors:

  • Gambling: Compulsive gambling despite negative consequences.
  • Internet/Gaming: Excessive use of the Internet, including online gaming.
  • Eating Disorders: Anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.

Co-occurring Disorders

  • Definition: Simultaneous occurrence of mental health and addiction disorders.
  • Impact: More complex to treat as each disorder can exacerbate the other.

What Are The Most Important Addiction Statistics?

Addiction is a pervasive and multifaceted issue that goes beyond personal lives, extending its reach into entire communities and industries. Nearly 8.7 percent of full-time workers aged 18 to 64 reported having a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year. This prevalence varies across industries, with construction witnessing as high as 16.5%, compared to 4.3% in education services. Age and gender also play significant roles in drug addiction rates, with younger workers and males generally experiencing higher rates. The economic impact of substance abuse in the workplace is tangible, leading to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and elevated healthcare costs. Recognizing the urgency of the workforce addiction issue, the importance of workplace prevention and intervention programs has been emphasized, and recommendations include implementing evidence-based workplace policies and programs. The insights found in our article on this subject provide an in-depth analysis of how addiction influences various job sectors and offer guidance on addressing these serious challenges.

What Are Addiction Treatment Options?

Addiction treatment options are varied and often tailored to meet the unique needs and circumstances of each individual. Here are some of the most common types of addiction treatment options to expect:

  • Medical Detox: This is usually the first step in many treatment programs. Under medical supervision, substances are safely removed from the body, ensuring that the patient is physically stable before proceeding to other forms of treatment.
  • Inpatient Drug Rehab: This involves residential treatment where patients stay at a facility and receive intensive care. Inpatient treatment often includes medical observation, detoxification, therapy, and other forms of support in a controlled environment.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Also known as “day treatment,” PHP is a more intensive form of outpatient care that allows individuals to access high-level medical and therapeutic care while living at home or in a sober living environment.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): Patients who are stable enough to live at home but still require significant treatment may opt for an IOP. This program involves attending treatment sessions for several hours a day but allows patients to carry on with their daily activities.
  • Outpatient Treatment: This flexible option is suitable for individuals who have a strong support system at home and only need therapy or counseling services. Outpatient treatment can be customized to fit around work, school, and family commitments.
  • Long-term Residential Treatment: For severe addictions, long-term residential options offer extended care that can last several months or even years.
  • Therapy and Counseling: This includes a range of approaches such as individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Motivational Interviewing are often used in these sessions.
  • Alternative Therapies: These can include holistic approaches like acupuncture, art therapy, equine therapy, and mindfulness meditation as complementary treatments.
  • Aftercare and Alumni Programs: Crucial for long-term recovery, these programs offer ongoing support, resources, and community to help prevent relapse.

frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Addiction

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) What are the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S.?

Based on the statistics in the most recent SAMSHA report, opioids, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and marijuana are the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. Alcohol, although legal, also remains a significant concern due to its widespread misuse.

How many Americans are affected by drug abuse?

The number varies by the type of drug, but millions of Americans are affected. For example, in 2018, 808,000 people reported using heroin, and 5.7 million people reported misusing prescription tranquilizers. Alcohol use disorder affects approximately 15 million individuals, with less than 8% receiving treatment. (

How is drug abuse affecting younger populations?

Younger populations are not exempt from the dangers of drug abuse. Statistics indicate that 614,000 teens aged 12–17 have admitted to using Adderall for nonmedical reasons. Moreover, alcohol use among 12- to 17-year-olds increased 4.4% from 2018 to 2019.

Are synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids more dangerous than naturally sourced opioids?

Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are significantly more potent and, therefore, more dangerous than naturally sourced opioids. Fentanyl, for instance, is one of the most abused and lethal narcotics today, approved by the FDA for medical use but widely misused.

What are the economic repercussions of drug abuse?

Economic repercussions are significant. For instance, in Colorado, for every $1.00 gained in tax revenue from legalized marijuana, nearly $5.00 is spent on related expenses such as marijuana-related DUIs. According to the Rutgers Journal Of Medicine, New Jersey Spends $ 1 billion dollars per year on the substance use disorder problem.

Concluding Insights: The Grim Reality and Urgent Need for Action

The data on drug abuse presents a sobering picture of the multifaceted challenges we face as a society. The abuse of narcotics like opioids remains a dominant issue, with synthetic options like Fentanyl posing a particularly high risk. Depressant abuse, often overlooked, has millions entangled in its web, manifesting in the misuse of prescription tranquilizers and sedatives. Stimulant abuse is a growing concern, extending from illegal drugs like methamphetamine to prescription drugs like Adderall, or Percocets affecting millions in the U.S. alone. Meanwhile, alcohol, a socially accepted substance, takes the lives of over 95,150 Americans each year, highlighting the disconnect between societal norms and the real-world devastation caused by substance abuse. According to the 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases, less than 8% of those with Alcohol Use Disorder are receiving the treatment they need. These statistics serve not only as an eye-opener but also as a clarion call for comprehensive strategies to tackle drug abuse on multiple fronts. The ubiquity and severity of these issues underline the imperative for effective prevention, education, and treatment programs, tailored to the unique challenges posed by each category of substance abuse.


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