In our everyday lives, the impact of substance abuse touches more corners than we might realize. This article delves into the world of substance misuse, breaking down the complexities to understand the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.
From everyday habits to more severe issues, we aim to shed light on the challenges of substance use and open a conversation about prevention and awareness.
Drug Use, Abuse, and Substance Use Disorder
Understanding drug-related issues involves distinguishing between drug use, abuse, and substance use disorder.
Despite the stigma associated with drug use, a staggering 85 to 90 percent of American adults engage in it daily. This includes the widespread consumption of caffeine, prescribed medications, and the regular consumption of alcohol, the most prevalent among abused substances.
Drug misuse, or abuse, emerges when the boundaries of responsible use are breached. This encompasses exceeding prescribed doses, inhaling or snorting drugs, using substances for non-prescribed purposes, or appropriating others’ prescribed medications. Substance use disorder, a more severe manifestation, afflicted 20.4 million Americans in 2019, constituting 7.4% of the population.
Alcohol and Marijuana: Dominance in Drug Abuse
The most commonly abused drug in the United States is alcohol and marijuana. These are the two most abused substances in the United States in recent years.
The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports 14.5 million Americans experiencing alcohol dependence or abuse and 12 million engaging in marijuana use. Dispelling the myth of marijuana’s non-addictive nature, 4.8 million Americans met the criteria for dependence or abuse.
The accessibility and affordability of alcohol and marijuana contribute to them being widely used. These factors, coupled with their ease of acquisition, perpetuate their status as the most frequently abused substances.
Ten Most Abused Drugs in the United States
As we explore the challenges of substance abuse, it’s clear that alcohol and marijuana, though significant, are just the tip of the iceberg.
In fact, there are many other types of drugs that can be abused. Here we present the ten most commonly abused drugs in the United States:
Initiating the roster is alcohol, a substance that insidiously infiltrates lives from an early age and is a perfect examples of substance abuse. Despite the government’s staunch stance on underage drinking, a disconcerting 20.4% of middle school students have already experimented with alcohol. By high school, this number swells to 24.2%. Alarming studies underscore the link between early alcohol initiation and unhealthy adult relationships with this intoxicating beverage. With 65 million participants engaging in binge drinking and 16 million reporting heavy alcohol use, the grip of alcohol use disorder ensnares 14.5 million Americans.
Marijuana, one of the most popular drugs around the world, creates legal confusion despite being decriminalized. Possessing just half an ounce can lead to a class 3 misdemeanor, possibly leaving a mark on your record. With street names like “pot” and “weed,” it draws in 12 million users, with 4.8 million pot users facing dependence or misuse.
3. Pain Relievers
Prescription drugs emerge as one of the commonly used drugs in the U.S, primarily featuring in the category of pain relievers. From morphine to oxycodone, these medications, when misused, offer euphoria and excitement. However, the decrease in misuse from 12.5 million in 2015 to 9.7 million in 2019 signals a positive shift. Even with the decrease, 1.4 million people still grapple with prescription pain reliever use disorder.
The world of mind-altering hallucinogens, like LSD and Ecstasy, saw a rise in misuse, reaching 6 million users in 2019. The intense experiences caused by these substances, along with possible long-term effects, highlight the importance of greater awareness and understanding.
Prescribed for sleep and anxiety, depressants like barbiturates and benzodiazepines present a dual narrative. Although there was a decrease in misuse from 7 million in 2015 to 5.9 million in 2019, it’s worth noting that 681,000 individuals still met the criteria for prescription tranquilizer or sedative use disorder.
Cocaine, one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States, exhibits a declining trend in misuse, with 5.5 million individuals in 2019 compared to 5.9 million in 2002. However, the persistent risk is underscored by 1 million users meeting criteria for cocaine use disorder.
7. Prescription Stimulants
ADHD medication, exemplified by Adderall, takes center stage among prescription stimulants. Misused by 4.9 million in 2019, this trend raises concerns. A notable 558,000 individuals meet clinical criteria for prescription stimulant use disorder.
Among the most abused illicit drug in the united states is Inhalants, commonly found in household products. It witnessed a troubling increase in misuse from 1.7 million in 2016 to 2.1 million in 2019. The potential damage to vital organs emphasizes the urgent need for intervention in cases of addiction and abuse.
Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as “meth,” shows a rise in misuse, involving 2 million users in 2019. The consequent uptick in methamphetamine use disorder, impacting 1 million users, emphasizes the need for increased vigilance.
Closing this distressing lineup is heroin, derived from morphine, with 745,000 users in 2019. The doubling of heroin use disorder since 2002, affecting 438,000 individuals, paints a stark picture. The tragic toll of over 14,000 heroin overdose deaths in 2019 serves as a somber reminder of the urgency to address opioid-related challenges.
As we confront the multifaceted challenges posed by these ten commonly abused substances, it becomes imperative to foster awareness, understanding, and comprehensive strategies to curtail the grip of substance misuse on individuals and communities alike.