Latest Findings Show Number of Addicts in America Doubled in Recent Years
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual research project funded and supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provides annual data on the scope of addiction in America. Each year’s annual report shows how many Americans struggle with an addiction to drugs and alcohol and how many of them access treatment. Comparing NSDUH reports from before the pandemic and after provides an alarming view of just how severely the scope of addiction in America has expanded in recent years.
What the Findings Show
The NSDUH research data for 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, put forth an alarming finding. According to the report’s summary:
- In 2021, 46.3 million Americans over the age of 12 (16.5% of that population) met the criteria for having an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
- Within that number, 29.5 million Americans met the criteria for an alcohol addiction.
- Within that number, 24 million Americans met the criteria for a drug addiction.
- Within that number, 7.3 million Americans met the criteria for having both a drug addiction and an alcohol addiction.
Those findings stand in stark contrast to previous reports, even recent ones. For example, in 2015, just 20.8 million Americans met the criteria for addiction, 15.7 million were addicted to alcohol, 7.7 million were addicted to drugs, and over two million met the criteria for both drug and alcohol addiction.
- In 2015, 2.3 million people who needed treatment received it, or just 11% of those who needed treatment.
- In 2021, 5.6 million people who struggled with addiction were able to find and enter treatment, representing just 12% of those who needed treatment.
In conclusion, though several million more Americans are seeking and finding treatment now than in previous years, the rate of treatment has not even come close to catching up with the rate of addiction as it spreads quickly across the nation.
Drug Addiction is on the Rise
In a 2021 analysis of the 2020 NSDUH survey, addiction experts signaled the pandemic as causing millions of Americans who had been recreationally experimenting with substances to begin using those substances far more often and in greater quantities, thus leading to a tipping point where millions of Americans went over the edge and began meeting the criteria for addiction.
That analysis was directed at the 2020 NSDUH findings, but the 2021 NSDUH findings show a similar trend as in 2020, confirming the hypothesis. Addiction has essentially doubled in America in recent years, and many can look to the pandemic and unfolding crises connected to it as a tipping point for millions of Americans who were already at risk.
The Need for Treatment Could Not Be More Clear
Drug and alcohol addiction leads to countless health crises, difficulties at work and school, troubles with the law, and serious familial challenges. Thousands of Americans die from drug and alcohol-related causes each year because, once addicted, people cannot control how much they drink or use drugs.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 140,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, including drunk driving accidents, alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related cancers, cirrhosis of the liver, and other health maladies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 107,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2022. This number has increased dramatically in the 21st century. For example, in 1999, the CDC recorded about 3,000 deaths from drugs, a figure that had remained mostly constant for years prior.
While people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol cannot overcome the nightmare on their own, help is available. Addiction does not have to be a life-long crisis. If you know someone who is addicted to drugs and alcohol, please get in touch with a qualified addiction treatment center today.
- SAMHSA. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2022. samhsa.gov
- SAMHSA. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016. samhsa.gov
- SAMHSA. “SAMHSA releases 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2021. samhsa.gov
- NIAAA. “Alcohol-Related Emergencies and Deaths in the United States.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023. niaaa.nih.gov
- CDC. “Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyl–Involved Overdose Deaths with Detected Xylazine — United States, January 2019–June 2022.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023. cdc.gov