Top 5 Most Commonly Abused Drugs in the US & Their Effects

Turnbridge operates leading mental health and substance abuse treatment programs throughout Connecticut. This blog is a resource for people seeking addiction and mental health recovery information and inspiration, and the latest Turnbridge news and events. Some of the most commonly abused prescription meds are painkillers — specifically, opioids. These drugs dull pain, but in large doses they can also cause a euphoric high — and dangerous side effects.

most abused drugs in the us

5.2 million young adults or 1 in 7 aged needed substance abuse treatment, only 1.6% or 547,000 received treatment. $193 billion was incurred in overall costs for illegal drugs in addition to $78.5 billion for prescription opioids. 75% of deaths from drug use disorders among users aged 50 years and older are caused by opioids. 10% of veterans between the ages of misuse prescription pain relievers compared to 5.5% of the general population in the US in the same age group. 505,000 veterans misuse prescription pain relievers compared to 59,000 who used heroin.

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3.2 million adults (1.3% of all adults in the US) had co-occurring SMI and an SUD in the past year. 32.7% of adolescents with ME were more likely to use an illegal drug than those without (14%). Alcohol use among 12- to 17-year-olds increased 4.4% from 2018 to 2019, whereas use among other age groups declined. Suicides where toxicology tests indicated marijuana had been used increased from 7.6% in 2006 to 23% in 2017. In 2013, there were fewer than 5,000 cocaine-related deaths worldwide compared to 10,000 in 2016.

What are the 3 main effects of drug abuse?

Side effects of drug addiction may include:

Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure. Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage. Lung disease. Problems with memory, attention and decision-making, which make daily living more difficult.

Examples of such chemicals include mephedrone, methylone, and 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone . Behaviors can be as eco sober house review addicting as substances like alcohol and drugs. Learn which activities can cause serious problems for some people.

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Spring Hill Recovery offers 100% confidential substance abuse assessment and treatment placement tailored to your individual needs. Know the signs of a fentanyl overdose and have naloxone on hand if you or someone you know uses opioid drugs. Education is an important part of fighting the drug epidemic, so we’ve compiled a list of the most abused drugs for your reference. This is a decongestant in lots of non-prescription cold medicines. While it helps clear up a stuffy nose, it’s also an ingredient in illegal methamphetamine («meth»). To curb meth abuse, U.S. laws now control how you buy pseudoephedrine products.

The number of women using marijuana increased 12.5% from 2017 to 2018. 7% of veterans struggle with illegal drug use compared to 5.3% of the general population in the US over age 18. Mental illness and substance abuse is relatively common among military veterans. 51.5 million or 20.6% of adults over the age of 18 have a mental illness. LSD is one of the most dangerous hallucinogens with the greatest potential to cause serious long-term damage.

Doctors usually prescribe morphine for severe pain and codeine for milder pain or coughing. Stimulantprescription drugs such as Ritalin and Aderall are typically prescribed for ADHD and narcolepsy. Since they are made from powerful stimulants like amphetamine or methlphenidate , prescription stimulants have a high potential for abuse. With1.2 million current nonmedical usersin 2012, prescription stimulants are now the third most abused class of prescription drugs in the nation. With over half (52.5%) of U.S. population identified as drinkers,alcoholis the #1 abused substance in America.


These drugs have a relatively low potential for dependence and abuse. Most Schedule IV drugs are prescription medications, some of which have been banned by the Food and Drug Administration. There are 72 drugs classified as Schedule II. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.

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As with pain relievers, there are many Americans that take these medications as-needed for relief from muscle pain and anxiety who do not become addicted. You can find the official DSM 5 criteria for a substance abuse disorder here. Drug-Free Communities Support Program –Funding hundreds of communities around the country, the DFC program helps communities identify and respond to local substance abuse issues. Women are also more likely than men to receive prescriptions for opioid drugs like Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin. This is partly because they are more likely to experience physical conditions that cause chronic pain .

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Even in a recession, alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are purchased in high numbers because of the low price compared to other “more expensive” habits. Nearly five times times the number for dependence/abuse of cocaine . The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. Amphetamines such as diet pills are the second most-used drug.

most abused drugs in the us

When these drugs are used regularly, a person may knowingly or unintentionally take them with alcohol or other substance. This puts dramatically heightens the risk of overdose, permanent damage, or death. Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Drugs that are considered “gateway drugs” or deemed a public health risk may also be listed under Schedule I. Drug abuse often results in comorbidity- nearly 50% of persons who have substance abuse disorder also experience mental illness. West Virginia has the nation’s highest rate of overdose deaths at 51.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

The exposure of children under 5 to marijuana increased by 148% over a 7-year period. In 2018, 51.3% of Americans obtained their illegal pain medication from a friend or relative. 13.5% of Americans 12 and over used drugs in the last month, a 3.8% increase year-over-year . «Since 2014, marijuana exposure cases have exceeded ethanol cases every year, and by a greater amount each year than the prior.» They may even develop a co-dependence where they need two or more substances to just function and get through the day.

24.7% of those with drug disorders have an opioid disorder; this includes prescription pain relievers or “pain killers” and heroin). Their doctor prescribes them medication after an accident, surgery, or a variety of other reasons. These painkillers offer relief, but they’re also highly addictive. That’s why patients must follow their doctor’s recommendations regarding dosage and use. When we talk about drugs and the ones most commonly abused, which ones come to mind? It is important to remember drug abuse of various substances is always changing.

9.5 million or 3.8% of adults over the age of 18 have both a substance abuse disorder and a metal illness. Non-sanctioned/non-medical/non-prescribed use of these controlled substances is considered drug abuse. They are likely to create physical or psychological dependence.

  • In 2013, there was an estimated 19.8 million users, or 7.5 percent of the U.S. population ages 12 and older.
  • 80% struggle with alcohol abuse, and 7% have an issue with both alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • Statistics indicate that some demographics and communities face elevated risks of drug abuse and drug disorders.
  • The DEA promotes National Take Back Days, encouraging consumers to hand over their expired and unused medications.
  • Schedules categorize drugs by their potential for medical use or for abuse.

Polysubstance consumption of drugs can result in dependency/addiction, high-risk behaviors, psychopathology onset or other poor mental health outcomes. Between 2012 and 2018, the rate of cocaine-related overdose deaths increased from 1.4% to 4.5%. 9.7 million or 96.6% of opioid misusers use prescription pain relievers. Yet, any drug that is abused can lead to dependence and, eventually, addiction.

Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. The CDC notes that rates of both current and binge drinking among high school students have declined over the past few decades. According to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, the average age when drug use first begins has risen somewhat, to 17. However, the «Monitoring the Future» survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that substance use decreased significantly among adolescents in 2021.

Most Commonly Abused Drugs in The U.S. [Infographic]

Rates of marijuana use have increased sharply in recent years as the drug is legalized for recreational and medicinal purposes in several states. More people reported consuming marijuana in2015than during any single year between 2002 and 2013. While marijuana use is slowly becoming more accepted, it’s important to keep in mind the possible mental and physical consequences of frequent, heavy use. Of the 22.2 million Americans who were current users of marijuana in 2015, 4 million had a marijuana use disorder. In 2018, nearly 19 million people aged 12 and older needed substance abuse treatment. 964,000 perceived a need for treatment, 392,000 went on to seek treatment.

most abused drugs in the us

MDMA is an abbreviation of the scientific name 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. Gamma-hydroxybutyrate Gamma-hydroxybutyrate is a depressant approved for use in the treatment of narcolepsy, a disorder that causes daytime «sleep attacks». Since alcohol is a depressant, it can slow motor skills and impair the user’s ability to make clear judgments. A powerful, addictive stimulant, cocaine gives users a euphoric feeling when ingested, which, depending on the person, may or may not actually feel good. “Some people experience that rush as very pleasurable, but others don’t like it,” Collins says.

High levels of oral antihistamine misuse were also recorded across the study period. Intentional misuse and abuse of substances was also significantly less common in children than adolescents. The most popular drug of choice for those new teenage users is marijuana, followed by prescription painkillers and inhalants. Students who prefer community drug or alcohol counseling services, treatment, rehabilitation, or re-entry programs are strongly encouraged to contact for more information.

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