The 8 Most Common Addictions in the U.S.
In the United States, it is estimated that at least 23.5 million persons suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction. However, less than 1 in 10 receive treatment for those addictions.
There are a myriad of ways to abuse substances, and a nearly limitless number of substances to abuse. So what are the most common addictions in the U.S.? Let’s take a look.
#8 Stimulants (Amphetamines) – Over 300,000 Addicted
Stimulant abuse is incredibly common – from the illicit use of prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin to meth. Stimulants activate the central nervous system, making people feel energetic, talkative, and euphoric.
Withdrawals symptoms result in the opposite effect – users feel tired, lethargic, and depressed. Long term users of stimulants often find themselves avoiding the come down effects, and may continue using for days or weeks at a time.
For college students and those who need to stay awake for long periods of time, amphetamines are often the drug of choice. Past month meth users alone may number over 400,000.
#7 Benzodiazepines (Anti-Anxiety) – Over 400,000 Addicted
Benzodiazepines are prescription medications indicated to treat anxiety and insomnia. They include common name brands such as Valium, Xanax, and Ativan. Benzos suppress the central nervous system, making the user feel relaxed, calm, and content. Higher doses induce sleep.
Those who are addicted find themselves very anxious and agitated when they try to wean themselves off the drugs. Benzos are highly addictive, and although not usually deadly on their own, can easily cause an overdose with mixed with other depressant substances such as opioids or alcohol.
#6 Heroin – Over 425,000 Addicted
Herion is a powerful and illegal opioid which can result in severe central nervous system depression. It is highly addictive, and carries a host of horrible withdrawal symptoms, so terrible its earned its own distinctive description for the effect – “dope sick”.
Heroin users trying to detox have terrible pain, nausea, vomiting, and general anxiety and agitation. Like many other substances, avoidance of this feeling keeps users addicted and seeking their next high.
#5 Cocaine – Over 900,000 Addicted
Cocaine has decreased in popularity since the 1980’s, and some might be surprised to discover how prevalent it still is. Crack cocaine especially, a form of cocaine base, is alive and well. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2014), about 913,000 Americans met the criteria for dependence or abuse of cocaine during the past 12 months.
Cocaine offers an intense but relatively short high. Upon subsequent uses, the length of time for the high tends to get shorter and shorter. Thus, those who are addicted to crack are almost in constant need for more of the drug to avoid the horrible comedown.
#4 Painkillers – 1.8 Million Addicted
Prescription painkillers, or opioids, are current responsible for a major addiction and overdose epidemic raging throughout the United States. Painkillers provide a high in addition to pain relief, so like their street cousin heroin, are incredibly addictive.
Indeed, those who get addicted to pain pills sometimes turn to heroin to fuel their addiction when they are unable to get their drug of choice.
In addition, it is estimated that at least another 26 million Americans have abused painkillers at some point in their lives. It’s only been since the turn of the century that painkillers have taken their place among the most common addictions in the U.S.
#3 Marijuana – 4.2 Million Habitually Addicted
Marijuana isn’t thought to be physically addictive in the same way as other drugs, but is habitually addictive. Far from being just a casual drug anymore, some smokers get high literally from sun up to sun down. The potency of marijuana has also increased over the last few decades, which add to its habitually addictive potential. In general, its a hard “addiction” to gauge because so many people (94 million) admit to having used it at least once.
#2 Alcohol – Nearly 18 Million Addicted (1 in 12 Adults)
There’s no question that alcoholism is among the most prevalent addictions in the U.S. Many who aren’t chronic alcoholics still engage in binge drinking at some point. One reason is because it’s not only legal, but easily attainable. It’s also a more acceptable form of substance use, versus,say, crack cocaine.
Regardless, it’s undoubtedly one of the most dangerous substances regularly used in the U.S. and worldwide. Alcohol withdrawals can actually be fatal, so those coming off of a binge may be at risk for serious consequences. Alcohol-related deaths may number nearly 90,000 in any given year, including car crashes and accidental injury.
#1 Tobacco – Over 40 Million Addicted
Tobacco, like alcohol, is legal, and despite the massive amount of anti-smoking campaigns in the last few years is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. It is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or 1 of every 5 deaths. In terms of common addictions, the shear number of addicted smokers put tobacco at #1 by a large margin.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology