Drug Addiction Statistics

What Is Drug Addiction?

risks of heroinEven in today’s modern society, drug addiction is still looked down upon in many respects and widely thought of as something that afflicts the weak-willed, poor, downtrodden, or uneducated. Quite the contrary is true. While certain demographics and risk factors will predispose one person to addiction over another, addiction knows no bounds.

A survey published in the International Journal of the Addictions questioned 256 Americans as to what comes to their minds when they hear the term “drug addict,” and the majority produced a description of a disoriented, sickly, skinny, lower class, diseased, male “hippie” that has skin problems and behavioral issues. The stigma that plagues drug addicts began long ago, and despite our current knowledge on it, most people still align drug addiction with criminal activity and negative thoughts of their personal experiences with addicts and their common bad behavior.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stigma is partly to blame for why some addicts don’t receive the treatment they need, in addition to the reason many physicians won’t treat addicts and why some drug companies aren’t trying to develop new addiction treatments. Some efforts to reduce stigma toward addicts have proven to be beneficial, but the big picture of drug addiction still poses the idea to non-addicts that addiction is nothing more than a series of bad choices.

In all actuality, addiction is a chronic, lifelong battle to hold onto your life and your identity. Experiencing it changes the way you view the world and often the way you view yourself, frequently resulting in feelings of low self-worth for many that are compounded by society. Addiction is an inability to stop using a substance even if the user really wants to, as defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Mayo Clinic lists the following categories as risk factors for drug addiction:

  • Addiction runs in your family, giving you a genetic predisposition.
  • You’re a man, doubling your risk.
  • You have another psychiatric condition.
  • You are subject to peer pressure.
  • Family and strong support systems are lacking.
  • You are troubled with depression and/or anxiety or feel alone.
  • The drug you’re abusing is known to be very addictive.

There are valid questions many non-addicts have, such as why someone would ever try drugs in the first place, as though never experimenting would deter someone from the fate of dependency. This simply isn’t true though. Some addicts never intended to abuse a drug in their lifetime; they were given a prescription for pain or while recovering from injury and got hooked on drugs supplied by their very own doctor that they’ve come to trust. Others grow up in homes where drug abuse is prevalent and are given illicit substances during childhood and the adolescent years, when they know no better.

Tolerance and Dependency

Many people wrongly assume that developing a tolerance to a substance is the same thing as being addicted to it. Actually, tolerance — wherein the body no longer reacts accordingly to past doses of a drug, requiring larger doses to achieve the same effects — forms even in cases where dependence does not.

Dependence is when addiction begins to form. The body becomes physically reliant upon the abused substance. Sometimes — in the case of hard substances like heroin — dependency can occur after only a few uses. For most drugs, however, regular use over a period of weeks to months will lead to dependency.

Number Crunching

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drugs and booze are close cousins and abuse of one makes the other more likely, as shown in the results of one study in which 64 percent of 248 treatment-seeking alcoholics were eligible for a drug use disorder diagnosis at some point during their life. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 37.2 percent of substance abuse treatment admissions in 2009 alone were for patients struggling with alcohol abuse accompanied by at least one drug.

Lawful Consequences

Law EnforcementThe 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health states that 10.3 million individuals over the age of 11 admitted to driving while under the influence of an illicit drug in the preceding year. CNN Health reported on testing for drug involvement in 12,055 drivers of fatal car accidents in 2009 that led to positive drug results for 3,952 drivers, a 5 percent increase in the past five years.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states that 80 percent of incarcerated individuals engage in substance abuse and nearly half of all inmates are suffering from clinical addiction. Since drug addiction is still largely treated as a crime in the United States rather than a chronic health problem, the repeated failure of successful inmate rehabilitation programs and the increased rate of recidivism continue to be overlooked. The NCADD also accounts for around 85 percent of incarcerated drug abusers picking up their habits after being released, and 60 to 80 percent engaging in criminal activity again post-release too.

Health Effects

The Drug Abuse Warning Network attributed 4.6 million visits to American emergency rooms in 2009 to drugs. In the United States alone, 41,340 people died due to drug overdose in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of late 2013, the Washington Post reported that drug overdoses were responsible for more deaths than vehicle accidents in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

Addicted to What?

Designer Drugs

Of the 13.5 million opioid users across the globe, 9.2 million are using heroin, according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that approximately 23 percent of heroin users end up dependent on the drug. The New Haven Register relayed CDC statistics touting 3,036 deaths attributed to heroin overdose in 2010, a number the CDC admits is likely at least 25 percent short.

Research shows the popular club drug Ecstasy has been growing in popularity over the years among our nation’s youth, with 10,176 documented ER visits for patients under 21 years old in 2011, a drastic jump from the 4,460 in 2005, per SAMHSA. Nonetheless, 695,000 US citizens over the age of 11 reported themselves as current or past-month users of the drug in 2010, according to Drugs.com.

Commonly referred to as MDMA or Molly, the drug is frequently cut with other substances that can seriously endanger the life of the user. The Huffington Post reported comments made by an official from the Drug Enforcement Administration warning that 80 to 90 percent of the time, the substance they’re handling that is allegedly Molly turns out to be something else, often other illicit drugs.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens notes the results of a 2012 study wherein 6.5 percent of 8th grade students, 17 percent of those in 10th grade, and 22.9 percent of high school seniors had used marijuana at some point during the month preceding the survey. While controversy looms over the addictive potential of cannabis, NIDA affirms that around 9 percent of marijuana users develop an addiction to the drug, with variants up to 17 percent for early-onset users, and 25 to 50 percent for those who use it every day. The results of a 2013 Gallup poll indicate 38 percent of adult Americans have tried marijuana, but only 7 percent admit to being current pot smokers.

Designer drugs — also known as research chemicals — have gained massive popularity in America over the past few years. Because of such, emergency room visits for bath salts reached an alarming 22,904 incidents in 2011, per the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, and spice was responsible for over 28,500 that same year, according to Health.com.


A 2011 report from SAMHSA detailed measures of an approximate 1.1 million adult users of inhalants in the previous year. As inhalants are popular among youths, SAMHSA states nearly 1 million teenagers used inhalants in the year leading up a 2007 survey, and around 99,000 of them qualified for a diagnosis of inhalant dependence or abuse.


Speed and Methamphetamines

A research report by NIDA found that more than 12 million Americans have used methamphetamine one or more times. A 2012 CBS News report relayed study results showing 1.6 percent of surveyed high school sophomores confessed to using the stimulant in 2010. A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Healthmade note of the increased likelihood of depressive symptoms in high school juniors who used methamphetamines, Ecstasy, or both during their sophomore year.Blurring the line a bit between amphetamines and prescription drugs are medications like Adderall — used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The Huffington Post reports that doctors wrote over 18 million prescriptions for Adderall in 2010, signaling a growing demand for the drug. Stimulant medications like Adderall were misused by 10.8 percent of college students in the year prior to being surveyed — many in need of the boost a study drug can deliver, according to WJLA News.

Rx Marks the Spot

Prescription drugs are being abused more than ever, with a staggering 5.1 million individuals abusing prescription pain medications alone, per the Washington Times. The Boston Globe reported that 16,651 deaths in 2010 were associated with opioids, 29 percent of which the analgesic was solely responsible for the death. Intended as a method of treatment for opioid addiction, methadone has brought with it its own addicts and remains responsible for almost one-third of opioid-related prescription drug overdoses, according to the PEW Charitable Trusts.


Cocaine was linked with 4,183 overdose deaths in America in 2010, a 44 percent decline from 7,448 in 2006, per a 2013 White House press release. Fortunately, cocaine abuse has slowly declined in America since the mid-1980s when it was at its peak with a reported 5.7 million users in 1985, via the National Criminal Justice Reference System. A 2012 statistic illustrates 1.6 million current cocaine users over age 11.


Approximately 18 percent of American adults smoke cigarettes, 13.4 million smoke cigars, 2.5 million are users of pipe tobacco, and 9 million are spit or smokeless tobacco users, per the American Cancer Society. An NBC News report touts premature death in smokers, citing 13 to 14 years of life lost in comparison to non-smokers. Each year, cigarette smoking alone is responsible for nearly one in every five deaths, totaling around 480,000 in all, per the CDC.

The Picture of a Drug Addict

man depressed outpatientWhile many are guilty of holding the aforementioned stereotypical image of addicts in their mind, addiction does target certain people more than others and they aren’t always down-on-their-luck, poverty-stricken individuals with “drug addict” written across their face. So, who’s doing it?


Bypassing the stigma, let’s get real; every single child, adolescent or adult struggling with addiction is somebody’s son or daughter, someone’s siblings perhaps, or somebody’s someone special. While having a mother or father who abused drugs or alcohol predisposes someone to a heightened risk of carrying on the detrimental habit, you aren’t exempt from addiction even with the most pristine of parents.

Data from 2007 accounted for 8.3 million American children living with a parent who was a substance abuser or dependent on alcohol or drugs in the previous year, per the Child Welfare Information Gateway. These parents don’t always fit the mold society has created for the typical addict. In fact, moms all over the nation attempting to successfully juggle kids, careers, marriages, and more were responsible for a great deal of the 750 percent influx in Adderall prescriptions between 2002 and 2010 among females ages 26 to 39, per ABC News.

Aging Americans

In recent years, the number of senior citizens addicted to drugs has increased greatly. According to Psych Central, some are merely delving back into the drug abuse they entertained in their youth while others are getting hooked on prescriptions given to them by their doctors, with almost three in every 10 individuals ages 57 to 85 using a minimum of five prescribed drugs.


The fact of the matter is, drug abuse starts early for many. Unfortunately, the earlier an individual starts using illicit substances, the more probable it is they’ll go on to abuse harder drugs and develop addiction in the future. According to U.S. News & World Report, one-fourth of Americans who started using an addictive substance before they turned 18 were addicted as of 2011, compared to one in 25 who began using addictive substances after turning 21. The Florida Institute of Technology states that the average age for first-time drug use is 13 years old.

On the other side of the planet, it isn’t uncommon for young children to be addicted to illicit substances, especially in countries that produce them. In Kabul, Afghanistan, CNN News reported on a tight-knit family consistent of a grandmother, her three children, and two grandchildren — ages 5 and 8 — all of whom are addicted to opium, as are roughly 1 million other Afghans.

United We Stand

getting help

Active duty military members are now considered to be at an increased risk of drug abuse too. The number of service members who are misusing prescribed medications has steadily been on the rise over the last decade. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that 11 percent of military members admitted to the misuse of a prescription medication in 2008, with the majority being opioid painkillers. That, coupled with the fact that military doctors exhibited a fourfold increase in the number of prescriptions they wrote for painkillers from 2001 to 2009 to nearly 3.8 million, presents serious concern for the well-being of American’s troops.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness accounts for 53 percent of drug addicts having one or more serious mental health disorders. Many meet the criteria for mental illness and have no idea, and some are perfectly aware but choose not to, or they don’t have the means to treat their condition. In either case, the number of people with mental health disorders who are self-medicating with illicit drugs is staggering. Furthermore, these substances only provide a temporary fix for the symptoms that plague the user — symptoms that always return with a vengeance and can worsen without treatment.

NIAAA attests that mental illness is also substantially more common among those with both drug- and alcohol-related disorders than it is for either one alone. Consequently, the risks to their health are also increased, as well as the likelihood that they’ll ever try to take their life. Everyday Health discussed the prevalence of mental illness among substance abusers, noting the results of one study showing over 21 percent of adults who had dealt with a depressive episode in the previous year had abused some substance, while only 8 percent of individuals without depression did. Per WebMD, up to 60 percent of persons diagnosed with bipolar disorder engage in substance abuse. According to one Psychiatric Times article, those diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder carry a 25 to 30 percent rate of drug abuse and dependency.

Get Help Now

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 20 percent of all admissions into drug and alcohol treatment programs in America in 2008 were for opiates, with heroin making up 14.1 percent of the total, and marijuana was responsible for 17 percent. These statistics prove you’re not alone.

Currently, the most popular methods of medicated detox for opioid addicts are drug treatment therapies using methadone or buprenorphine. According to the California Society of Addiction Medicine, methadone boasts an impressive success rate at 60 to 90 percent. In one buprenorphine study, 196 of the 408 opioid addicts being treated with the drug had recovered successfully after one year’s time, with the majority continuing treatment and nine of them being tapered off the drug after remaining abstinent and cooperating with the program for six months, per Medscape.

While buprenorphine’s success rate is lower, it may be more effective during treatment. The downfall of these medications seems to be the higher incidence of relapse after stopping the medication; for some, that means lifelong maintenance of their drug addiction, a choice they’re willing to make when faced with the alternative.

Here at Axis, both our outpatient and inpatient therapy modules are geared for the successful remediation of drug addiction, along with the treatment of any present co-occurring conditions.

Our world-renowned physicians and mental health care professionals work in tandem to treat your addiction in conjunction with effective remedies for your mental health diagnosis, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. We offer individual and group therapy options, providing you with the all the benefits of both. Call now to speak with our admissions staff about the treatment experience only we can give you.