addiction trends in the United States

addiction trends in the United States today

Introduction

The number of people with an addiction in the United States has never been higher. Addiction trends show that, in 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that 49.2% of people had used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime. Some of the most abused substances include heroin, cocaine, pain relievers, and alcohol. In 2018, roughly 15,000 people died from a heroin overdose. In that same year, 31,000 people died from synthetic opioids. To make things more challenging, many individuals who develop substance use disorders (SUD) are also diagnosed with mental illnesses and vice versa.

Drug Use Rates by Age

Ages 12 or Older

Between 2016 and 2018, the percentage of people aged 12 or older who said they used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime slightly increased, from 48.5% to 49.2%.

From 2016 to 2018, the percentage of people 12 or older who said they used illicit drugs in the past year increased each year, from 18% to 19% to 19.4%.

The number of people aged 12 or older who said they used an illicit drug in the last month has also increased slightly:1

  • In 2016, 10.6% said they had used an illicit drug in the past month
  • In 2017, 11.2% said they had used an illicit drug in the past month
  • In 2018, 11.7% said they had used an illicit drug in the past month

Teenagers: Ages 12 to 17

Between 2016 and 2018, the percentage of teenagers who said they used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime barely increased, from 23% to 23.9%.

From 2016 to 2018, the percentage of teenagers who said they used illicit drugs in the past year increased each year, from 15.8% to 16.3% to 16.7%.

The number of teenagers who said they used an illicit drug in the last month has also largely remained stagnant:1

  • In 2016, 7.9% of teenagers said they had used an illicit drug in the past month
  • In 2017, 7.9% of teenagers said they had used an illicit drug in the past month
  • In 2018, 8% of teenagers said they had used an illicit drug in the past month

Young Adults: Ages 18 to 25

Between 2016 and 2018, the percentage of young adults who said they used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime slightly decreased, from 56.3% to 55.6%.1 This percentage still means that half of young adults had used an illegal drug at some point in their lives.

From 2016 to 2018, the percentage of young adults who said they used illicit drugs in the past year slightly varied each year, from 37.7% up to 39.4% and back down to 38.7%.1

The number of young adults who said they used an illicit drug in the last month has also varied slightly:1

  • In 2016, 23.2% said they had used an illicit drug in the past month
  • In 2017, 24.2% said they had used an illicit drug in the past month
  • In 2018, 23.9% said they had used an illicit drug in the past month

These percentages mean that an average of 1 in four young adults has used an illicit drug in the past month.

Adults: Ages 26 or Older

Between 2016 and 2018, the percentage of adults aged 26 or older who said they used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime barely increased, from 50.2% to 51.2%.1

From 2016 to 2018, the percentage of adults who said they used illicit drugs in the past year slightly increased, from 15% to 16.1% to 16.7%.1

The number of adults who said they used an illicit drug in the last month is also creeping towards 10%:1

  • In 2016, 8.9% said they had used an illicit drug in the past month
  • In 2017, 9.5% said they had used an illicit drug in the past month
  • In 2018, 10.1% said they had used an illicit drug in the past month

Drug Use Rates by Substance

Illicit Drugs in 2019

  • 20.8% of people aged 12 and older said they used an illicit drug in the past year.2
  • 17.2% of adolescents said they used illicit drugs in the past year.
  • 39.1% of young adults in 2019 said they used illicit drugs in the past year.
  • 18.3% of adults aged 26 or older reported using illicit drugs in the past year.

Alcohol in 2019

  • 50.8% of people aged 12 or older reported drinking alcohol in the past month.2
  • 9.4% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 reported drinking alcohol in the past month.
  • 54.3% of young adults (18-25 years) reported drinking alcohol in the past month.
  • 55% of adults reported drinking alcohol in the past month.

Methamphetamine in 2019

  • 0.7% of people aged 12 or older used methamphetamine in the past year.2
  • 0.2% of adolescents used methamphetamine in the past year.
  • 0.8% of young adults (18-25 years) used methamphetamine in the past year.
  • 0.8% of adults used methamphetamine in the past year.

Cocaine in 2019

  • 2% of people aged 12 or older used cocaine in the past year.2
  • 0.4% of adolescents used cocaine in the past year.
  • 5.3% of young adults (18-25 years) used cocaine in the past year.
  • 1.7% of adults used cocaine in the past year.

Crack Cocaine in 2019

  • 0.3% of people aged 12 and older used crack cocaine in the past year.2
  • 0.1% of adolescents used crack cocaine in the past year
  • 0.2% of young adults (18-25 years) used crack cocaine in the past year.
  • 0.3% of adults used crack cocaine in the past year.

Heroin in 2019

  • Around 0.3% of people aged 12 or older used heroin in the past year.2
  • Around 0.3% of young adults used heroin in the past year.
  • Around 0.3% of adults reported using heroin in the past year.
  • About 0.1 to 0.2% of adolescents used heroin in any year from 2002 to 2017.

Pain Relievers in 2019

In 2019, people ages 18-25 were most likely to be misusing a prescription pain reliever, followed by adults older than 25.

  • 3.5% of people aged 12 or older reported misusing prescription pain relievers in the past year.2
  • 2.3% of adolescents reported misusing prescription pain relievers in the past year.
  • 5.2% of young adults reported misusing prescription pain relievers in the past year.
  • 3.4% of adults reported misusing prescription pain relievers in the past year.

Sedatives in 2019

In 2019, young adults were more likely than other age groups to be abusing a tranquilizer or sedative.

  • 2.1% of people aged 12 or older misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in the past year.2
  • 1.8% of adolescents misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in the past year.
  • 4.2% of young adults misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in the past year.
  • 1.9% of adults misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in the past year.

Stimulants in 2019

Among people aged 12 or older in 2019, 1.8% misused prescription stimulants in the past year. These estimates in 2019 were lower than those in 2016 and 2017. 1.2% of adults in 2019 misused prescription stimulants in the past year. The numbers were similar from 2015 to 2019.

1.7% of adolescents in 2019 misused prescription stimulants in the past year. The statistics were similar from 2015 to 2019. Among young adults, percentages for the past year misuse of prescription stimulants declined from 7.5% in 2016 to 5.8% in 2019.2

Overdose Deaths Rose 2016 Through 2018

Synthetic Opioids

In 2018, around 31,000 deaths that involve synthetic opioids happened in the United States. The overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids increased by 10% from 2017 to 2018.

The number of deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (mainly fentanyl) continued to increase in 2019, with 36,359 reported overdose deaths.

Methamphetamine

Since 2012, the number of overdose deaths involving psychostimulants (primarily methamphetamine) has increased each year, with 16,167 deaths in 2019.3

Cocaine

Overdose deaths involving cocaine increased from 3,822 in 1999 to 15,883 in 2019. The main driver of cocaine-related overdose deaths is the mixing of cocaine with synthetic opioids.3

Prescription opioids

According to estimations, 41 people died every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2018. The number of overdose deaths that involve prescription opioids dropped by 13.5% from 2017 to 2018.

In 2019, the number of overdose deaths was 14,139.3

Heroin

In 2018, roughly 15,000 people died from a heroin overdose in the United States. Compared to heroin-related overdose deaths in 2017, the number decreased by 4.1%4

There were 14,019 deaths involving heroin reported in 2019.

Benzodiazepines

Drug overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines increased from 1,135 in 1999 to 11,537 in 2017. Between 2017 and 2019, deaths declined to 9,711.

National Drug Early Warning System (Atlanta Metro)

Methamphetamine deaths

Traditionally, Atlanta has had the highest rates of methamphetamine use than any other major US city east of the Mississippi River.

In 2016, there were 379 deaths where methamphetamine was present at the time of death, compared to 285 in 2015.5

In 2017, the top drugs found in decedents in the George Medical Examiner’s reports were alprazolam (576), methamphetamine (479), and oxycodone (469).6

The number of statewide decedents who tested positive for methamphetamine at the time of death reached an all-time high in 2018 with 614 deaths. According to reports, Atlanta’s methamphetamine supply was being mixed with increasing amounts of fentanyl, an addition that can be dangerously undetected.7

In 2019, the number of deaths involving methamphetamines dropped by 10.1%.8

Poison Control Calls

Heroin and Opiates

In 2019, Atlanta-based drug calls to Georgia Poison Control Center for heroin reached an all-time high, with 107 calls being made. It was an increase from 2018 when the number of heroin-related drug calls was 100.9

That same year, there were 186 drug calls related to opiates, another all-time high.

Meth

In 2019, the Georgia Poison Control Center received 92 meth-related drug calls from Atlanta, compared to 72 drug calls in 2018.9

Benzodiazepine Deaths

In 2019, the number of alprazolam deaths and other benzodiazepines was the lowest since 2008. All major drug indicators suggest a decrease in benzodiazepine use in metro Atlanta, compared to the previous 5-6 years. Benzodiazepines continue to be the one drug most often abused by females, and increased use among persons younger than 26 years old is reported.9

Trends in Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues and Substance Use Disorders

PTSD and Addiction

People who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at a higeher risk of developing an addiction. They may abuse alcohol or drugs in a misguided attempt to reduce their feelings of anxiety, but substance abuse can worsen their PTSD symptoms. In fact, roughly 50% of people seeking treatment for substance use also meet the criteria for PTSD.10

Depression and Addiction

Addiction and depression have a close relationship. Many people living with depression often self-medicate with different medications in an attempt to break free from the negative symptoms of the illness. One study has shown that around one-third of people with a major depressive disorder also have a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, the comorbidity can lead to a higher risk of suicide and greater social and personal impairment.11

Anxiety and Addiction

Addiction can increase the risk of developing anxiety or can make pre-existing symptoms worse. Stimulant drugs are most commonly related to causing and worsening the symptoms of anxiety, as they increase activity in the brain.11

Moreover, people with social anxiety may turn to alcohol or drugs to feel more comfortable and relaxed in social situations. Although drugs and alcohol can bring temporary relief, they can also intensify anxiety a few hours later or the next day.

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

According to statistics, around 60% of individuals with bipolar disorder abuse alcohol or drugs.12

Bipolar disorder and addiction are a dangerous combination. Each condition can worsen the symptoms and severity of the other. The co-occurrence increases the risk of mood swings, depression, violence, and suicide.

Resources

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