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The Top 10 Drug Statistics: How Big of a Problem is Drug Addiction?

Drug abuse and addiction is one of the leading causes of preventable injury, illness, and death across most of the world. There are few societal problems that are as great as those posed by drugs. The top 10 drug statistics show just how bad the problem really is.

4 Minute Read | Published Sep 28 2023 | Updated Mar 01 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Dr. Ash Bhatt
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Dr. Ash Bhatt
Reviewed by

Know the Facts about Addiction: the Top 10 Drug Statistics

1: Substance Use Is Responsible for 11.8 Million Deaths Every Year

Substance use is either directly (through overdose) or indirectly (through cancer, suicide, liver disease and etc.) responsible for approximately 11.8 million deaths around the world each year. That is one in every five deaths globally. Of this total, the large majority is the result of secondary effects from smoking nicotine and drinking alcohol.

2: Overdose Is Responsible for 350,000 Global Deaths Every Year

Overdose, or the over-consumption of a substance to the point where it is causing the body’s systems to fail, is responsible for approximately 350,000 annual deaths around the world. Alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning, is responsible for the majority of these deaths.

3: 42% of Global Overdose Deaths Are in the US

Approximately 42% of all illicit drug overdose deaths in the world every year occur in the United States of America. This is an incredibly high percentage when the United State only has 4.2% of the world’s population. That means that America’s share of overdose deaths is 10 times greater than its share of the population.

4: 1/2 of Americans Have Tried An Illicit Drug

More than 50% of Americans have tried an illicit or illegal drug at least once in their lifetime. Of these drugs, by far the most commonly tried is marijuana. After marijuana, opioids and then hallucinogens are the most commonly tried drugs.

5: 70% of Those Who Try Drugs Before 13 Develop an Addiction

70% of individuals who try an illegal drug before the age of 13 develop a diagnosable substance use disorder within 7 years. This is substantially greater than the 27% of those who try an illegal drug after the age of 17. Perhaps more troubling, addictions that being earlier in life are generally more severe and harder to treat.

6: There Are More Than 100,000 Annual Overdose Deaths in the United States

Every year, more than 100,000 Americans die from drug overdose. This number has been growing essentially every year, and has gone up dramatically over time. Overdose deaths continue to climb despite the introduction of life saving tools like Narcan, which reverses opioid overdose.

7: 5 Million Americans Are Regular Cocaine Users

Approximately 5 million Americans routinely use cocaine or crack, the smokable form of the drug. This is despite the United States government spending decades waging a “war on drugs,” and the well-documented dangers of the drug.

8: Major Corporations Have Agreed to Pay $50 Billion In Opioid Lawsuit Settlements

Over the past several years, there have been thousands of lawsuits filed against major players in the opioid industry, including manufacturers, distributors, marketers, and more. Most of these lawsuits were joined into mass suits. So far, defendants have agreed to pay more than $50 billion in opioid lawsuit settlements. Many of these settlements require defendants to fund treatment programs, meaning that there are many millions of dollars available to help pay for opioid addiction treatment.

9: Men Are Twice as Likely to Die from Overdose Deaths than Women

Overdose deaths are twice as common among men than women. There are a number of factors that are responsible for this drug statistic. Men are more likely to engage in dangerous behavior than women in general, and they are especially more likely to engage in illegal drug use. Men are also considerably less likely to admit that they have a problem or seek treatment. Luckily, there are many drug rehab options for men.

10: More than 90% of Those Who Have Tried Illicit Drugs Have Tried Marijuana

Perhaps the best-known “gateway drug,” marijuana is commonly abused by individuals before they experiment with “harder drugs.” Of those individuals who have tried illegal or illicit drugs, more than 9 out of 10 of them have used marijuana at some point.

Don’t Become a Top 10 Drug Statistic: Find Help for Your Addiction

If you or your loved one is addicted to drugs, you don’t have to become a top 10 drug statistic. Drug rehab programs have been proven time and time again to be the best chance of achieving a lasting sobriety. Call our confidential helpline at (800) 429-7690 to get help finding a treatment program that will work for you.


bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021).
"DrugFacts: Nationwide Trends."
Retrieved on April 11, 2023
bullet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021).
"Drug Overdose Deaths."
Retrieved on April 11, 2023
bullet Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020).
"Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health."
Retrieved on April 11, 2023
bullet United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2021).
"World Drug Report 2021."
Retrieved on April 11, 2023
bullet Drug Enforcement Administration. (2021).
"2021 National Drug Threat Assessment."
Retrieved on April 11, 2023
bullet World Health Organization. (2020).
"Substance Use: Key Facts."
Retrieved on April 11, 2023
bullet United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2020).
"World Drug Report 2020."
Retrieved on April 11, 2023
bullet National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (2020).
"State Estimates of Substance Use and Mental Disorders from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health."
Retrieved on April 11, 2023

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