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Learn the Facts About Drug Use and Addiction in the United States

Posted on January 26, 2018

Looking for facts about drug use and addiction in the United States? Check out the information below to learn more.

What are illicit drugs?


Illicit drug use includes the use of a wide variety of mind-altering substances. This includes the misuse of prescription drugs or the use of marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or methamphetamine.


How prevalent is drug use?


47.7 million people used mind-altering substances last year. Of those, 36 million used cocaine/crack, 36 million used marijuana and 18.9 million people misused prescriptions in the past year. This class of drugs includes prescription pain relievers (such as oxycodone), tranquilizers (such as Xanax) and sedatives (such as valium).


Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted, yet addiction remains very prevalent in the United States. Roughly 7.7 million people in the U.S. meet the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder (a.k.a. “drug abuse” or addiction).



Drug use in the Past Year:


Opioids lead the charge for drug overdoses, but cocaine and stimulants still account for a significant portion of drug overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closely monitors these statistics. In 2014:


  • Heroin accounted for over 15,000 deaths
  • Natural and semi-synthetic opioids accounted for over 14,000 deaths
  • Methadone accounted for over 3,000 deaths
  • Synthetic opioids other than methadone accounted for over 20,000 deaths
  • Cocaine accounted for over 10,000 deaths
  • Stimulant with abuse potential accounted for over 7,000 deaths


Drug Overdose and Healthcare


Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. Overdose rates were highest among people aged 25 to 54 years.


Signs of overdose can include:


  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Shallow breathing or breathing that has stopped altogether
  • Inability to wake them up
  • Unusual snoring/gurgling sounds
  • Blue/gray lips or fingertips
  • Limp body


If you cannot get a response from someone who may have overdosed, do not assume they are asleep. Unusual or deep snoring is a common sign of overdose. Do not let people at risk ‘sleep it off’. If you see any of these signs, immediately move to activate the response plan for overdose.


Warning Signs of Drug Addiction


Sometimes the warning signs of drug misuse or abuse are very noticeable. Other times, they can take longer to surface. The chance for successful recovery increases when drug addiction is discovered in its early stages.


Common signs of addiction include:


  • Loss of control
  • Continued to use despite consequences
  • Spending less time on activities that used to be important, such as hanging out with family and friends, exercising, or pursuing hobbies or other interests
  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Taking serious risks in order to get one’s drug of choice
  • Acting out in personal relationships, particularly if someone is attempting to address their substance problems
  • Going out of one’s way to hide the amount of drugs taken
  • Serious changes in hygiene or physical appearance
  • Needing to use more and more of the drug in order to produce the same effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, trembling, sweating, nausea or fatigue


Educating the community disrupts the stigma about drug use and spreads the message that addiction is treatable. Don’t keep silent about addiction. Use your voice to share your story.


Recovery is possible. Together, we can reduce the stigma of drug addiction, overdose and recovery.


You deserve a better life. Call 561-841-1296.