It’s no secret that drug and alcohol addiction is a dangerous public health issue. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, about 11% of Americans currently use some kind of illicit substance1. If we account for addictive legal substances like tobacco and alcohol, that number jumps even higher — up to 60.2%1.
While every person struggling with addiction has their own unique story, it is true that many people experience some common addictions before they enter drug or alcohol addiction treatment. But what are the most addictive drugs, and which drugs are most Americans using?
Today, let’s take a look at the most common drugs used in the United States.
Top 10 Most Abused Drugs in the US
In 2020, over 57 million Americans over the age of 12 used nicotine products like cigarettes or vaping pens2. These are troubling numbers, as nicotine is both bad for your health and highly addictive.
In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 23.6 million Americans report struggling with a dependence on nicotine. Because nicotine products are not illegal, they often contribute to some of the most common addictions in the United States.
Alcohol is another dangerous and addictive substance that is legal in the United States. It’s also a very popular substance; An astounding two-thirds of American adults consume alcohol each year3.
Of course, it is important to remember that drinking alcohol isn’t a problem for everyone. For example, the CDC reports that despite the high rate of alcohol consumption, only 5.1% of American adults engage in “heavy drinking”3. However, if you or a loved one does struggle with alcohol addiction, help from a private or free and state-funded rehab is a vital part of the recovery process.
The most used illegal drug in the U.S. is undoubtedly marijuana, with about 48 million Americans using the substance each year4. The federal government still considers marijuana an illegal Schedule I substance, but many U.S. states have legalized the substance for both medical and recreational use.
While Marijuana use does not usually lead to physical dependence, research shows that about 30% of people who smoke or take edibles develop some form of marijuana use disorder5.
4. Prescription Painkillers
Prescription painkillers are quickly becoming some of the most used drugs in the U.S. Around 9.3 million people misused painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, or Fentanyl6. The U.S. government acknowledges that prescription drug misuse is an epidemic and a threat to public health — especially since more than 16,000 people die from prescription opioid overdoses each year6.
Benzodiazepines like Diazepam and Clonazepam are sedative drugs that calm the nervous system and prevent anxiety, muscle seizures, and similar conditions. However, the drug also has a high potential for addiction and misuse.
Research from 2018 suggests that over 12% of American adults currently use benzodiazepines; however, NIDA reports that 17% of benzo users misuse the drugs, suggesting that this class of drugs can become a new prescription drug crisis7.
Although cocaine is one of the top 10 most common drugs in the U.S., significantly fewer people use this substance than the ones we’ve listed above. According to NIDA, about 5.2 million American adults used cocaine in 2020, and 1.5 million of those people reported having a cocaine use disorder8.
Heroin is an illegal substance, but it is still one of the most common drugs being misused in America. NIDA reports that 902,000 people used this dangerous drug in 2020, and 691,000 of those individuals reported being addicted to this substance9.
Heroin use is closely tied to the opioid crisis; research shows that heroin initiation (people trying the drug for the first time) rose 19 times between 2002 and 2012, and numbers continue to climb10.
Americans have long been misusing prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, particularly among college-aged individuals who want to “focus on studying.” Research shows that 16 million U.S. adults use prescription stimulants each year and about 5 million people misuse the drugs11.
Inhalant use also called “huffing,” means breathing in spray paint, household cleaners, or other substances that can produce intoxication. Research shows that 750,000 people try inhalants for the first time each year12. About 215,000 reported having an inhalant use disorder in 202013.
Finally, some of the most commonly misused drugs in the U.S. are nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics, such as Ambien or Lunesta. Doctors often prescribe these drugs because they are a non-addictive alternative to benzodiazepines, but they do carry some risk for dependence. For example, research shows that Ambien abuse is prevalent among U.S. adolescents, with 17,000 teens aged 12-17 misusing the drug14.
What are the Most Addictive Drugs?
As you can see, there is a wide range of substances being misused in the United States. But you might be wondering: what are the most addictive drugs? Research suggests that the following substances are the most addictive of the ones we listed here:
But of course, the most addictive drug to you or your loved one. Anytime someone you care about is struggling with an addiction, it is very important to treat their addiction seriously and get the expert help they need.
How can you help someone overcome one of the most common addictions in the country? The journey starts with a call to Better Addiction Care.
Call Better Addiction Care for Help
Better Addiction Care strives to help you and your loved ones find the right treatment program for your specific case. We will work with you to learn about your substance use history, medical history, insurance provider, recovery goals, and much more. Then, we will connect you with a rehab that can give you the foundation and support you need for lifelong recovery.
Whether you’re looking for a court-ordered rehab, a specialized group (like rehab for veterans), an outpatient program, or anything in between, our treatment advisors can help you find the program that works for you. Call Better Addiction Care today at 800-429-7690 and change your life for the better.
- National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. (n.d.) Drug Abuse Statistics. NCDAS. Retrieved June 1, 2022 from https://drugabusestatistics.org/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2022, May). What is the scope of tobacco, nicotine, and e-cigarette use in the United States? NIDA. Retrieved June 2, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/what-scope-tobacco-use-its-cost-to-society
- National Center for Health Statistics. (2020, August 18). Heavy Drinking Among U.S. Adults, 2018. CDC. Retrieved June 2, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db374.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Protection. (2021, June 8). Marijuana and Public Health. CDC. Retrieved June 2, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/data-statistics.htm
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July). Is marijuana addictive? NIDA. Retrieved June 2, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive
- NIDA. (2020, June). What is the scope of prescription drug misuse in the United States? NIDA. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-scope-prescription-drug-misuse
- NIDA. (2018, October 18). Research suggests benzodiazepine use is high while use disorder rates are low. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/news-events/science-highlight/research-suggests-benzodiazepine-use-high-while-use-disorder-rates-are-low
- NIDA. (n.d.) What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States? NIDA. Retrieved June 2, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states
- NIDA. (n.d.) What is the scope of heroin use in the United States? NIDA. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states
- NIDA (2018, January). Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use. NIDA Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-opioids-heroin/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use
- Compton, W., M.D. et. al. (2018, April 16). “Prevalence and Correlates of Prescription Stimulant Use, Misuse, Use Disorders, and Motivations for Misuse Among Adults in the United States.” The American Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17091048
- Howard, M. Ph.D. et al. (2011, July). “Inhalant Use and Inhalant Use Disorders in the United States.” Addiction Science and Clinical Practice. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3188822/#__ffn_sectitle
- NIDA. (n.d.) What is the scope of inhalant use in the United States? NIDA. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/inhalants/what-scope-inhalant-abuse
- Ford, J. & McCutcheon, J. (2012, June 28). “The misuse of Ambien among adolescents: Prevalence and correlates in a national sample.” Addictive Behavior. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306460312002456
- Kashyap, N. (n.d.) The 5 Most Addictive Drugs, and How You Can Get Help. WebMD. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/addiction-treatment-recovery/the-most-addictive-drugs-and-how-to-get-help
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