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The State of Substance Use in the United States

The state of substance use in the United States is quite turbulent. While we’ve seen some improvement in the use of opioids and other prescription medications, there some spikes in other substances. For example, the legalization of marijuana is making statistics about cannabis use go through the roofs. Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, we see an increase in mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Consequently, those cases are increasing the number of people using alcohol as a coping mechanism. Not to mention, it also increases the number of relapse cases. Let’s take a closer look at the state of substance use in the United States based on the latest reports available. 

Quick Statistics About Substance Use in the United States

Overall, an estimated 164.8 million people aged 12 or older in the United States are substance users. This number includes people who drink alcohol, used tobacco products, or used illicit drugs. Here’s a quick rundown of how these numbers compare according to the substance.

Tobacco Use:

  • In 2018, around 47 million people aged 12 or older reported saying they used tobacco products within the last month. 
  • 10.8 million of those surveyed said they were daily smokers who smoked, on average, a pack of cigarettes or more per day.
  • Overall, cigarette use declined between 2002 and 2018, mostly due to electronic devices like e-cigarettes and vaping devices. 

Alcohol Use:

  • In 2018, over 139 million people aged 12 or older reported being past month alcohol users. Of those, 67 million were binge drinkers, and 16.6 million were heavy drinkers.
  • About 2.2 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 reported drinking alcohol in the past month, with 1.2 million reporting participating in binge drinking. 
  • Although the number of teenagers using alcohol has declined, almost 1 in 11 adolescents in 2018 were past month alcohol users.

Illicit Drug Use:

  • In 2018, about 19.4% of people aged 12 or older, the equivalent to 1 in every 5 individuals, used an illicit drug within the past year. That’s significantly higher than in previous years.
  • The most common illicit drugs used were marijuana (43.5 million people), prescription pain relievers (3.6 percent of the population), while prescription misusers accounted for 10.3 million people. 

The State of Substance Use Disorders in the United States

Beyond substance use, it’s essential to understand the number of substance use disorder cases in the nation. Substance use disorders are impairment caused by the recurrent use of alcohol or other drugs, sometimes both. These impairments include health problems, disability, failure to meet responsibilities at work and school. 

Alcohol Use Disorder:

  • An estimated 14.8 million people aged 12 or older in 2018 had an alcohol use disorder. That’s about 1 in 9 people. 
  • Close to 400,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 had an alcohol use disorder; that’s about 1.6% of adolescents. 
  • The most significant percentage of alcohol use disorders in 2018 was among individuals ages 18 to 25, with close to 1 in 10 young adults struggling with alcoholism. 

Illicit Drug Use Disorder:

  • In 2018, an estimated 8.1 million people aged 12 or older had at least one illicit drug use disorder. That’s about 3% of the population. 
  • Not surprisingly, the age bracket of 18 to 25 was among the higher substance users, with almost 2.6 million young adults struggling with addiction. 

Marijuana Use Disorder:

  • Almost 4.4 million people had a marijuana use disorder in 2018.
  • Close to 2 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 17, had a marijuana use disorder.
  • A higher number of young adults, ages 18-25, are also struggling with marijuana use disorder, close to 6% of the young adult population. 

Opioid Use Disorder:

  • By 2018, almost 2 million people aged 12 or older struggled with an opioid or heroin addiction. 
  • In 2018, approximately 1.6 million adults aged 26 or older had an opioid use disorder, significantly higher than any other demographic in the past year.

The Most Common Addictions  

Some people are shocked to learn about the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Here’s a quick snapshot of the top common addictions:

Looking Forward

So far, we’ve seen tremendous improvements in the fight against opioid abuse and prescription painkillers. However, this isn’t over. With the legalization of marijuana across many states and states like Oregon legalizing all substances, addiction numbers might rise. There’s no doubt that drug addiction is considered a public health problem that needs all of our efforts to manage it. 

For our part, at Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we do our best to educate those struggling with substance use about the dangers of their practices. We also hope to educate young adults, their friends, and family members about the different options out there for addiction treatment. Plus, we’re always bringing up the topic of breaking up the stigma that hovers drug addiction and mental illness to provide a safe space for conversations that enable healing and recovery. 

If you or someone you love is addicted to Adderall or other stimulant medications, seek help immediately. Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs.

We believe in treating each patient in a case-by-case scenario because no two addiction stories are alike. Start walking towards your recovery, and we’ll be here supporting you and your family every step of the way. Please don’t wait another day to start addiction treatment, primarily when your life depends on it. 

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