The Most Abused Drug in America

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Any guesses as to what the most commonly used and abused drug in America is? If you’re thinking cannabis or marijuana, you’re correct. Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the country. About 28 million Americans report smoking the drug each year. Plus, 47 million American adults have admitted to consuming marijuana in their lives and 52 million have admitted to consuming cannabis in their lives. That’s a lot of people – and these numbers dwarf reported drug use across other categories. For example, only about half-a-million Americans report taking methamphetamine – and less than 300,000 report taking heroin. Of the 28 million Americans who have reported smoking marijuana in the past year, about 30% are estimated to be addicted to it. Obviously, using a substance and abusing it are two different things. Even if only 30% of the 28 million Americans abuse the drug, it would still be the most widely abused drug in the US. Prescription drugs are also a problem in the US, let’s discuss that below.

Are Prescription Drugs widely abused in America?

Prescription drug use is a category that has been steadily increasing for decades. It’s the second most popular category of drug use, with approximately 4.5 million non-medical prescription drug users each year. By non-medical, we just mean people who are taking substances outside of their prescription. Prescription drug abuse is second only to marijuana use and abuse. Cocaine is also incredibly popular with American adults. About 1.5 million Americans report using the stimulant. But, the problem is, are Americans getting the help they need?

Are enough Americans getting help?

In recent years, more and more people are recognizing addiction in themselves and their loved ones. This is great because the first step to recovery is recognizing that there is a problem. The bad thing is, far too few people are taking the actual steps they should to overcome their addiction. According to recent reports, 10% of the adult population says they have or have had a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). That’s over 23 million adults in the United States of America. The problem is, only 25% of them report actually going in for drug treatment in a specialty facility. In other words, 75% of those with a SUD don’t get treatment for it. Recent estimates say that  about 2.5 million Americans have sought drug addiction treatment at rehab centers during each given year.

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Mental illness is important when talking about drug addiction. Mental health comes into play because many times people try to self treat their symptoms with substances. Dual diagnosis occurs when someone has a co-occurring mental health issue and SUD. Treating addiction and the underlying mental health condition is crucial to a person’s success.

The US Leads the World in Prescription Drug Use

Unfortunately, the US is a hotbed for substance abuse and addiction. Our nation is not only afflicted by untreated substance use, but also untreated and undiagnosed mental health conditions. This is unacceptable. We must treat addiction AND mental health with care. Those with addiction and mental health issues are likely to thrive once they’ve gotten the help they need. With some care, they will return to lives full of hope, well-being, and fulfillment. 

The “actual” numbers of Americans with addiction issues is daunting. The US makes up only about 5% of the world’s population, but consumes 75% of the world’s prescription drugs. In other words, the US beats every single other country on the planet when it comes to prescription drug consumption. We take more drugs than absolutely every other country. That’s why it makes sense that half of all adult Americans say they have taken a prescription drug in the past 30 days. Opiate painkillers are the most abused prescription drugs in the US, with approximately five million Americans using and abusing painkillers each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that the Americans using prescription painkillers are using more than their fair share. In 2010, enough painkillers were prescribed by doctors to medicate every single person in the country for a month. Prescription painkillers are also responsible for deaths. More than 100 prescription drug overdose deaths occur each and every day. That means prescription drugs are more lethal than car accidents, guns and suicide. But that’s not all. Another 2.2 million people illegally used prescription tranquilizers and another 1.1 million Americans abused prescription stimulants. Therefore, Americans aren’t only addicted to opiate painkillers, we’re addicted to any form of prescription drug.

Seniors are Affected too

Everyone is affected by the prescription drug problem – even seniors. That’s why leaders in the field are calling it a prescription drug epidemic. More than 300,000 seniors are using their prescriptions incorrectly, according to estimates. Seniors are showing up in the emergency room after overdosing more than ever. For those over 55 years old, emergency room visits related to prescription drug misuse doubled in the five year period from 2007 to 2011. The most commonly abused drugs in this demographic are opioid painkillers, and Xanax, Klonopin, and other anti-anxiety medications.

In The End

The most commonly abused drug in the US is marijuana. More people are on marijuana than any other drug. Not every person who takes marijuana is abusing it – but, it is estimated that around 30% of users are addicted. The next most commonly abused drug in the US is the entire category of prescription drugs. This includes opiate painkillers, stimulants, benzodiazepines, and tranquilizers. Seniors over the age of 55 are at increased risk for addiction and abuse of their prescription drugs. If you think that yourself or a loved one is addicted, the time to get help is now. In truth, many people with addiction issues opt not to get the help they need. Only about 10% of people with drug addiction report going in for help. Stop the cycle of addiction now by receiving quality care.