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Substance Use Disorder Statistics

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Medically Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Feb 20, 2024 • 32 cited sources

Substance use disorders (SUD) are a pervasive issue in the United States and around the world. These chronic disorders can damage every area of a person’s life from their work and financial life to their interpersonal relationships.

Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) can help people to manage their SUD and build a better future.

What Classifies Someone as Having Substance Use Disorder?

A substance use disorder (SUD) is a mental health disorder characterized by an inability to control one’s use of a substance. This loss of control can be with illicit substances, like heroin, but it might also be with legal substances, such as alcohol. [1] 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) contains detailed checklists doctors can use to diagnose SUD. Symptoms are grouped into the following categories, and can be determined with the following questions:[31]

·  Impaired control: Do you take larger amounts and for longer than intended? Do you want to cut back but can’t? Do you spend a lot of time getting, using or recovering from drugs? Do you crave the drug?

·  Social impairment: Do drugs keep you from meeting your school, work or family obligations? Do drugs cause social problems for you? Have you changed your recreational activities due to drug use?

·  Risky use: Do you use drugs in physically unsafe environments? Do you keep using even though you’re aware drugs are causing harm?

·  Pharmacologic: Do you need higher doses to get the effect you want? Do you feel withdrawal symptoms between doses?

Key Facts About Substance Use Disorders

Here are some notable key facts related to SUDs:

Key Facts

  • In 2021, 61.2 million people in the United States used illicit drugs, representing 21.9% of the population.[3]
  • In 2021, 9.2 million people misused opioids specifically.[3]
  • In 2021, 46.3 million people met criteria for having a substance use disorder.[3]
  • SUDs commonly co-occur with other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety disorders.[1]
  • More than 35 million people in the world have a substance use disorder.[6]

Latest Substance Use Disorder Statistics

These are current statistics about SUDs and their treatment within the United States:

  • In 2023, 10.9% of eighth graders and 31.2% of 12th graders reported illicit drug use within the prior 12 months. This figure is dramatically lower than one recorded in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.[27]
  • In a poll conducted in July of 2023, 29% of adults said they or someone in their family had been addicted to opioids. The number was higher in rural areas, where 42% of adults said they’d experienced this issue themselves or seen it in a family member.[28]
  • ·In 2022, nearly 111,000 Americans died due to fatal overdoses.[29]
  • In 2023, fatal overdoses peaked at 112,000—the highest level ever recorded. Public health experts blame the presence of fentanyl for many of these deaths.[30]

What Are the Causes of Substance Use Disorders?

Substance use disorders are complex, and problems typically stem from multiple factors all working together. Understanding what they are can help you determine how to keep yourself and the people you love safe.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration places risk factors into the following groups:[32]

  • Relationships: Parents who misuse alcohol, or who abuse their children or neglect them, raise SUD risks for their children.
  • Communities: Living in an area with high levels of poverty and violence can increase risks.
  • Society: Lax substance use laws, combined with poor economic opportunities and racism, can increase SUD risks.

What Are the Signs of Substance Use Disorders?

Some signs that a person may have a substance use disorder include the following:[2]

  • Spending a significant portion of time getting drugs, using drugs, or recovering from drug use
  • Failing to meet important responsibilities, such as those at work or school due to drug use
  • Co-occurring mental health problems, such as depression or an anxiety disorder
  • Legal problems, especially those related to drug offenses
  • Monetary problems as the result of spending on drugs
  • Withdrawal from social activities 
  • Changes in mood and behavior, especially becoming more paranoid and isolated
  • Trying and failing to stop or reduce drug use
  • Withdrawal symptoms when cutting back on drug use
  • Intense cravings for the substance or obsessive thoughts about the next use of the substance

Substance Use Disorder Statistics by Country 

Here are some noteworthy statistics about SUDs in the US as compared to other countries:

  • Teens in the U.S. have higher rates of illicit drug use than European teens.[7]
  • The U.S. has the highest mortality rate globally related to SUDs.[8]
  • The U.S. has one of the highest rates of SUDs worldwide. Countries with comparable addiction rates include Greenland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada.[10]

Substance Use Disorder Statistics by Gender

There are some weak associations with gender as related to SUDs. Men are slightly more likely to use all types of illicit drugs. They are also more likely to experience fatal drug overdose than women. Women, however, are just as likely to develop a substance use disorder as men.[12] There are more men in treatment for SUD than women, at roughly a rate of 2:1. [12,13] Women transition from first using substances to a substance use disorder at a faster rate than men, and have poorer treatment outcomes than men.[12]

The reasons for some of these differences SUD between genders is  likely a mix of cultural and biological factors. For example, culturally it may be more socially acceptable for men to engage in certain types of drug related behaviors than for women. Biologically, men may metabolize alcohol and other substances differently than women. However, the differences in gender related statistics surrounding SUD aren’t fully established or understood and require more research. 

Substance Use Disorder Statistics by Age

Age is a factor in the development of SUD. Here are some statistics of SUD by age level:

  • The decade with the highest rates of new SUD are people in their twenties. [14,16] 
  • AUD rates are highest for men at age 25 and for women at age 22. After that point, rates of AUD for both sexes decline [14] 
  • Among people with an SUD in the U.S. in 2021, the highest percentage was  seen among those 18 to 25 years old at 25.6%. Among those 26 and older, the rate dropped to 16.1% 
  • The rate if SUD is approximately 8.5% for adolescents (ages 12–17).[16] 
  • Rates of developing SUDs generally decline with age [14]. That said, SUD is not limited to younger individuals; SUD is a notable contributing factor to death in people ages 65 and above.[15]

Key Substance Use Statistics 

In the United States, some substances are much more commonly misused than others. Based on a 2021 survey of people ages 12 and older:[16]

  • 54.7 million people used tobacco products in the prior month, including cigarettes.
  • 13.2 million people vaped nicotine products in the prior month.
  • 133.1 million Americans drank alcohol in the prior month.
  • 36.4 million used marijuana in the prior month.
  • 2.4 million misused prescription painkillers in the past month.
  • 2.2 million misused hallucinogens in the past month.
  • 1.8 million used cocaine in the prior month.
  • 1.4 million misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in the prior month.

Fentanyl Overdose Statistics

One of those most deadly drugs to enter the U.S. black market has been fentanyl. 

In 2021, fentanyl accounted for an estimated 67,325 preventable deaths in 2021. This represented a 26% increase compared to the prior year.[17]

Top States Battling Substance Use Disorder

The top states battling SUD are shown by their high rates of fatal drug overdose. Rates are listed as the number of deaths per 100,000 of the total population.[18]

These states have the highest rates of fatal drug overdose:

  • West Virginia: 90.9 
  • Tennessee: 56.6
  • Louisiana: 55.9
  • Kentucky: 55.6
  • Delaware: 54
  • New Mexico: 51.6
  • Ohio: 48.1
  • Maine: 47.1
  • Pennsylvania: 43.2
  • Indiana: 43

The states have the lowest rates of fatal drug overdose per 100,000 population:[18]

  • Nebraska: 11.4
  • South Dakota: 12.6
  • Iowa: 15.3
  • Texas: 16.8
  • North Dakota: 17.2
  • Hawaii: 17.3
  • Wyoming: 18.9
  • Idaho: 19
  • Montana: 19.5
  • Utah: 21.1

The Impact of COVID & Remote Work on Substance Use Disorder

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social isolation was associated with a sharp rise in substance misuse and fatal overdose in the U.S.

Between April 2020 and April 2021 during the pandemic, 100,000 people died from issues related to substance misuse, which was a 12-month all-time high.[19] 

As noted, one problem is that the pandemic isolated many individuals, which resulted in increased anxiety and depression. This may have exacerbated substance misuse across the population.

Additionally, remote work allowed some people to misuse drugs who normally wouldn’t have simply because they had more opportunity. One survey of 1,011 people found 25% reported participating in a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.[19]

In response to these rising rates of addiction, officials expanded access to life-saving MAT therapies that included buprenorphine. In 2023, researchers said that this expanse did not result in an increase in buprenorphine-related deaths.[25]

As COVID concerns eased and lockdowns ended, high rates of drug use dipped too—particularly in young people. The drop in drug use rates between 2020 and 2021 was the largest decrease reported since the survey began in 1975. Those improvements held steady in 2022.[26]

Addiction Treatment Statistics

Treatment is the best path to recovery from a SUD. Depending on the SUD in question, comprehensive treatment may involve a combination of medications and therapy. 

Here are some statistics on treatment for SUD:

  • Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) is the recommended course of treatment for OUD and AUD.
  • In 2020, only 13% of people who met criteria for treatment for SUD received it.[20]
  • In 2020, only 11% of people with OUD who needed MAT with medications like Suboxone received that treatment.[20]
  • In 2021, 94% of people with SUDs did not receive any formal treatment. [3]
  • Relapse rates for SUD stand at between 40% and 60%, which is similar to relapse rates for other chronic disorders, such as asthma or diabetes.[22]

How to Get Help for Substance Use Disorder

If you have a SUD,  rest assured that treatment can help. Every day, people recover from SUD and begin to rebuild their lives. With appropriate assistance, you can leave substance misuse in your past. 

Start by reaching out to an addiction treatment specialist. At Bicycle Health, we offer MAT for OUD. Suboxone is considered the gold standard in treatment for OUD, managing withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings, so you can focus on recovery. .[23,24] 

If you think Suboxone might be right for you, reach out to us today. We can meet with you via our telehealth services. And we can often get you a same-day prescription for Suboxone as appropriate. 

Medically Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

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