Drug Abuse Rates in the United States

benzodiazepines addiction

Recent government statistics estimate that around 24.6 million people in the United States use illicit drugs every 30 days. That’s nearly 10 percent of people over the age of 12.

According to findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, overall drug abuse rates have remained steady since 2002, but nonmedical use of marijuana and prescription drugs have been on the rise.

We’ve used the NSDUH statistics to round up the top five most commonly abused drugs in the US.


Estimated number of abusers: 19.8 million

One reason marijuana abuse was reported to be so high is due to the issue of legalization. One important thing to note is that, while marijuana laws vary state by state, all marijuana use reported was counted as illegal as the drug is illegal under federal law.

Marijuana is commonly used for social, medicinal, and spiritual reasons. It has a reputation for being a relatively harmless drug, as overdose potential is low and it can help treat certain conditions, but it does have some toxic effects.

Prescription Drugs

Estimated number of abusers: 6.5 million

As we know, the country is in the middle of an opioid epidemic. 5.2 million of the people who reported abusing prescription drugs were abusing painkillers. Other commonly misused prescription and over the counter drugs included stimulants and sedatives/tranquilizers.

Opioids are commonly misused due to their ability to make the user feel relaxed and happy. Commonly misused opioids include hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and more.

Amphetamines are the most commonly misused stimulants. They’re typically prescribed for people suffering from narcolepsy or ADHD because they increase alertness and energy.

Sedatives and tranquilizers that are often misused include barbiturates, sleep medications, and benzodiazepines.


Estimated number of abusers: 1.5 million

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant and is the second most frequently abused drug globally, after marijuana. Its stimulant effects make it extra risky for people with heart conditions or high blood pressure to use, and can also worsen existing mental health conditions.


Estimated number of abusers: 1.3 million

Commonly misused hallucinogens include LSD, PCP, and psilocybin. Someone under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug will experience a distorted reality, seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there. These drugs may pose serious, long-term risks for users with a history of mental health problems.


Estimated number of abusers: Approximately 595, 000

The use of methamphetamine can lead to very strong physical and psychological dependence. It’s one of the hardest addictions to break. The risk of overdose is high, as is the risk of heart issues, brain damage, and psychosis in long-term users.

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