Drug and Alcohol Abuse Statistics and Facts

The following statistics on drug and alcohol abuse show the scope of the addiction problem in the United States. City Vision University’s addiction counseling program will help you become an addiction counselor so you can transform the lives of those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Drug Abuse Statistics

  • According to the latest drug information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug abuse costs the United States over $600 billion annually in health care treatments, lost productivity, and crime.(1)
  • 19.3% of students ages 12-17 who receive average grades of “D” or lower used marijuana in the past month and 6.9% of students with grades of “C” or above used marijuana in the past month. (3)
  • Illicit drug use in America has been increasing. In 2012, an estimated 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older—or 9.2 percent of the population—had used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication (such as a pain reliever, stimulant, or tranquilizer) in the past month. This is up from 8.3 percent in 2002. The increase mostly reflects a recent rise in the use of marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug. (2)
  • Most people use drugs for the first time when they are teenagers. There were just over 2.8 million new users (initiates) of illicit drugs in 2012, or about 7,898 new users per day. Half (52 per-cent) were under 18. (2)
  • More than half of new illicit drug users begin with marijuana. Next most common are prescription pain relievers, followed by inhalants (which is most common among younger teens). (2)
  • Drug use is highest among people in their late teens and twenties. In 2012, 23.9 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds reported using an illicit drug in the past month.(2) 21.4% of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days – more than the number smoking cigarettes – 19.2% (3) More teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined. (3) Smoking is responsible for nearly a half million deaths each year. Tobacco use costs the nation an estimated $100 billion a year, mainly in direct and indirect health-care costs. (4)
  • Twenty-three million Americans age 12 or older suffer from alcohol and drug addiction. More than 15 million of those are dependent on alcohol, roughly 4 million are dependent on drugs, the rest are dependent on both. (5)
  • Individuals treated for alcohol misuse are approximately 10 times more likely to commit suicide than those who do not misuse alcohol, and people who abuse drugs have about 14 times greater the risk for eventual suicide. (5)

Alcohol Abuse Statistics

  • Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death (14)
  • Up to 40% of all hospital beds in the United States (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption (14)
  • Alcohol kills more teenagers than all other drugs combined. It is a factor in the three leading causes of death among 15- to 24-year-olds: accidents, homicides and suicides. (9)
  • Of the 3.9 million Americans who received treatment for a substance abuse problem in 2005, 2.5 million of them were treated for alcohol use. (9)
  • Youth who drink are 7.5 times more likely to use other illegal drugs and fifty times more likely to use cocaine than young people who never drink. One survey found that 32% of the heavy drinkers over 12 were also illegal drug users. (9)
  • Alcohol-related traffic deaths in the US were 12,998 in 2007. This is more than three times as many American soldiers who died in combat in the first six years of the Iraq war. (9)
  • A US Department of Justice study found that as many as 40% of violent crimes occur under the influence of alcohol. (9)
  • 39% of all traffic deaths involved alcohol in 2005. (9)
  • Drug information from the American Council for Drug Education (ACDE) states that approximately 10 to 15 million people in the United States can be classified as alcoholics. About 4.5 million of those people are adolescents. Alcohol dependence will affect 17 percent of men and 8 percent of women at some point in their lives. (1)
  • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 79,000 deaths per year are the direct result of excessive alcohol consumption. It is the third leading cause of death (lifestyle related) in the nation and the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. (1)
  • In 2005, excessive alcohol caused 4 million emergency room visits and 1.6 million hospitalizations. (1)
  • About 2,000 people under the legal drinking age (21) die annually in car crashes due to alcohol and it is involved in nearly 50 percent of all teen deaths involving violence. (1)
  • Individuals who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older. A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that 47% of those who began drinking before age 15 experienced alcohol dependence at some point in their life, compared to 9% percent of those who began drinking at age 21 or older. (3)
  • An estimated 1,900 young people under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. And, approximately 600,000 college students are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol. Approximately 700,000 students are assaulted by other students who have been drinking and about 100,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape (from NCADD Fact Sheet: Facts About Underage Drinking). (3)
  • Based on victim reports, alcohol use by the offender was a factor in:
    • 37% of rapes and sexual assaults
    • 15% of robberies
    • 27% of aggravated assaults, and
    • 25% of simple assaults


  • In 2006, alcohol misuse problems cost the United States $223.5 billion. (10)
  • Alcohol contributes to over 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions, most notably alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries.12 In 2012, alcohol accounted for 5.1 percent of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide. (10)
  • More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study. (10)
  • Prevalence of Binge Drinking: 40.1 percent of college students ages 18–22 engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks on an occasion) in the past month compared with 35 percent of same-age peers not in college (10)
  • Due to increased public awareness, prevention, enforcement and treatment/recovery, alcohol-impaired driving deaths have decreased 48.5% from 1982 (26,172) to 2006 (13,470). (11)
  • 4 out of 5 seniors seeking treatment for substance abuse have problems with alcohol vs. other types of drugs (12)
  • One in eight troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008 were referred for counselling for alcohol problems after their post-deployment health assessments, according to data from the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center. (13)

Statistics on Prescription Drug Abuse

  • A 2007 survey in the US found that 3.3% of 12- to 17-year-olds and 6% of 17- to 25-year-olds had abused prescription drugs in the past month. (6)
  • In 2005, 4.4 million teenagers (aged 12 to 17) in the US admitted to taking prescription painkillers, and 2.3 million took a prescription stimulant such as Ritalin. 2.2 million abused over-the-counter drugs such as cough syrup. The average age for first-time users is now 13 to 14. (6)
  • Depressants, opioids and antidepressants are responsible for more overdose deaths (45%) than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamines (39%) combined (6)
  • By survey, almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs—60% to 70% say that home medicine cabinets are their source of drugs. (6)
  • In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration found that abuse of the painkiller Fentanyl killed more than 1,000 people that year in the US. It is thirty to fifty times more powerful than heroin. (6)
  • …[A]fter marijuana, the next three most commonly used drugs [among teens] are the non-medical use of prescription…medications: Vicodin, OxyContin and Adderall. (7)
  • The health risks of abusing OTC cough and cold remedies include impaired judgment, nausea, loss of coordination, headache, vomiting, loss of consciousness, numbness, stomach pain, irregular heartbeat, seizures, panic attacks, cold flashes, dizziness, diarrhea, addiction, restlessness, insomnia, high blood pressure, coma, and death. Like any other drug, overdoses from over-the-counter medication can occur. (7)

Treatment Statistics

  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009 (9.3 percent of persons aged 12 or older). Of these, only 2.6 million—11.2 percent of those who needed treatment—received it at a specialty facility. (15)
  • The age range with the highest proportion of treatment admissions was the 25–29 group at 14.8 percent, followed by those 20–24 at 14.4 percent and those 40–44 at 12.6 percent. (15)


  1. http://www.projectknow.com/research/alcohol-and-drugs/
  2. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends
  3. https://ncadd.org/for-youth/faqsfacts
  4. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/substance_abuse/article_em.htm
  5. http://www.reneweveryday.com/resources/addiction-recovery-facts/
  6. http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/prescription/abuse-international-statistics.html
  7. https://ncadd.org/for-youth/faqsfacts
  8. https://ncadd.org/learn-about-drugs/faqsfacts
  9. http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/international-statistics.html
  10. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  11. https://ncadd.org/index.php/learn-about-alcohol/drinking-and-driving
  12. https://ncadd.org/learn-about-alcohol/seniors-vets-and-women/196-alcohol-and-senior
  13. https://ncadd.org/learn-about-alcohol/seniors-vets-and-women/198-veterans-and-alcohol
  14. https://ncadd.org/index.php/learn-about-alcohol/faqsfacts
  15. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-statistics
  16. https://ncadd.org/index.php/learn-about-alcohol/alcohol-and-crime

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