One in Ten Americans Admit to Drug Use: The Epidemic in Numbers

United states of addiction

According to a U.S. Health Report by the National Institutes of Health, about one in ten Americans of the age of twelve or older are now addicted to drugs or alcohol. This is addiction at never before seen levels, a crippling trend of substance abuse unlike any our country has experienced before. If we can't create positive and lasting change soon, this problem will only grow more dangerous.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, four and a half million Americans admitted to using prescription pain relievers in a non-medical way and on a regular basis. Another five and a half million admitted to using prescription pain relievers non medically at least once a month.

Also according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the U.S. has well over two million cocaine users, close to three million heroin addicts, about a million methamphetamine users, and well over ten million alcoholics. All told, the U.S. is now the home to over twenty-five million addicts.

Yet, even with such a significant percentage of the U.S. population being completely trapped by addiction, there still exists a significant treatment gap in the U.S. This is to say that, while more than twenty-four million Americans need rehab, only about two and a half million Americans actually receive treatment for their substance abuse problem, according to the Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death toll from substance abuse has been catastrophic. According to the CDC, more than one-hundred and fifty Americans die from drug overdoses every single day. Drug abuse now claims more lives than car accidents, than guns, than just about every preventable cause of death except for smoking and obesity. Since 2000, annual drug overdose deaths have increased by more than five-hundred percent. Since 2000, more than six-hundred and thirty-thousand Americans have lost their lives to substance abuse crisis.

Key Voices on the Addiction Problem

Pomela Hide -

In the words of Pamela Hyde, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

“As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Recovery Month our nation can be proud of the strides made in successfully promoting the power of recovery from mental and substance use disorders. However, throughout our nation, thousands still needlessly suffer the ravages of untreated substance use and mental disorders. We must reach out to all people with unmet need so that they can return to lives full of hope, well-being, and fulfillment.”

Another big name in the recovery space, Michael Botticelli, acting director of the National Drug Control Policy, had this to say on the issue:
MIhael Botticelli

We must continue to use that voice to share our triumphs and our challenges, and show the world that millions of us are leading happy, healthy, productive lives in long-term recovery. Each recovery story we tell chips away at the misconceptions that keep someone struggling with an addictive disorder from asking for help.”

It is clear now that the U.S. is struggling with an epidemic unlike any other. We have to come together as a group, or this problem will consume us.

Pushing for a Better Future

In the conquest for a better future, we must remain focused on the task at hand, which is reducing the drug problem in our country. We can’t let the statistics, grim and unpleasant as they might be, deter us from this goal. We can diminish the drug problem through education and rehabilitation. But the government won’t do it for us. This is a problem we all must address together.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.