The 6 Most Common Substance Abuse Disorders in the United States

We need to understand addiction before we have any chance of conquering it.

most common addictions

Addiction is nothing new. From TV shows to real life, scenes of substance abuse are pervasive and constant. It'd be pretty challenging to live in the United States and not know that alcohol, cigarette, and drug addiction is a major problem here: 20.2 million U.S. adults (8.4 percent of the population) had a substance use disorder in the past year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

But beyond knowing that substance abuse is a dangerous, serious issue that affects millions of Americans, what else do you know about addiction? Here are facts and stats about the six most common substance abuse disorders in the United States to date.

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1 Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Stats: It's estimated that 7.2 percent — 17 million adults — suffered from this condition in 2012. And approximately 855,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 were also diagnosed with AUD that year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Not to mention the millions more people who engage in risky binge-drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems, the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) adds.


Symptoms: There are three different levels of drinking: moderate (one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans), binge drinking (drinking five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days, as defined by SAMHSA), and heavy drinking (drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days in the past 30 days, as defined by SAMHSA).


For more information, contact: NIAAA, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD), or SAMHSA.

2 Tobacco Use Disorder

Stats: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an average of 40 million U.S. adults were cigarette smokers in 2014, with 30.7 million of these people smoking each day. The CDC also estimates that smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, and smoking-related illnesses cost the United States more than $300 billion a year.


Symptoms: Difficulty in controlling usage, continued use despite knowing the harmful consequences, increased tolerance, a higher priority over other responsibilities, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing use (such as cravings, nervousness, headache, or increased appetite).


For more information, contact: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) or SAMHSA.

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3 Cannabis Use Disorder

Stats: According to a 2016 survey conducted by NIAAA, about 6 million American adults — 2.5 percent — dealt with marijuana use disorder within the last year, while 6.3 percent of people have experienced this condition at some point in their lives. Data from SAMHSA states that marijuana is the most-used drug after alcohol and tobacco in the United States.


Symptoms: Disruptions in functioning due to usage, ongoing cravings, increased tolerance, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing use (such as sleeplessness, irritability, anger, or depression).


For more information, contact: NIDA or SAMHSA.

4 Stimulant Use Disorder

Stats: The most commonly abused stimulants — taken to boost energy and alertness — are amphetamines (like Adderall), methamphetamine, and cocaine. It's estimated that 913,00 people in the United States over the age of 12 dealt with this disorder because of cocaine use in 2014, and nearly 569,000 reported using methamphetamines within the past month.


Symptoms: Failure to control usage, continued use despite interference with obligations, use of larger amounts over time, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms (such as extreme fatigue, troublesome dreams, increased appetite, or involuntary movements).


For more information, contact: NIDA or SAMHSA.

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5 Hallucinogen Use Disorder

Stats: In 2014, approximately 246,000 Americans had a hallucinogen use disorder, which is defined as a dependency on drugs that cause profound distortions in a person's perceptions of reality derived from plants (like mushrooms) or chemically synthesized drugs (like LSD).


Symptoms: Failure to control use of hallucinogens when attempted, continued use despite interference with obligations, use of larger amounts over time, use in risky situations (such as driving), development of tolerance, and spending a great deal of time trying to obtain these drugs.


For more information, contact: NIDA or SAMHSA.

6 Opioid Use Disorder

Stats: Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and opioid addiction is driving this epidemic. The number of American deaths from opioid overdose (including both prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) has nearly quadrupled since 1999, killing more than 28,000 people in 2014, according to the CDC. And a 2016 report from NIAAA states that nearly 10 million Americans reported using opioid medications (including OxyContin and Vicodin) without a prescription from 2012 to 2013 — a statistic that has more than doubled in 10 years. An August 2016 study released from the CDC concludes that the rate at which babies have been born with drug withdrawal symptoms caused by painkillers or heroin in the womb has also quadrupled over 15 years.


Symptoms: Strong desire for opioids with the inability to control or reduce use, continued use despite interference with responsibilities, use of larger amounts over time, increased tolerance, and spending a great deal of time to obtain and use opioids. The common withdrawal symptoms that occur after stopping or reducing use include negative mood, nausea or vomiting, muscle aches, diarrhea, fever, and insomnia.


For more information, contact: The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services or SAMHSA.

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