How Common is Addiction?

Updated: Aug 20



by Jessica Hulsey


In the United States, over 20 million people suffer from addiction – that’s one in seven people.[1] Nearly 50 percent of people in the U.S. know someone who has suffered or is currently suffering from a substance use disorder.[2] And 23 million Americans are in recovery, proving that a person can be treated and recover from this illness.[3]


Alcohol use disorder is the most prevalent addiction in the U.S., followed by marijuana and opioids. 


The types of substance use disorder broken down from 2018 data shows:[3]


  • 14.8 million people aged 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder;

  • 4.4 million people aged 12 or older had a marijuana use disorder;

  • 2 million people had an opioid use disorder;

  • 1.1 million people had a methamphetamine use disorder;

  • 997,000 people had a cocaine use disorder; and

  • 751,000 people had a sedative use disorder.


Figure 1. 

Prevalence of Substance Use Disorders



  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019) Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved from www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-annual-national-report

  2. Pew Research Center. (2017).  Nearly half of Americans have a family member or close friend who’s been addicted to drugs. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/10/26/nearly-half-of-americans-have-a-family-member-or-close-friend-whos-been-addicted-to-drugs/

  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Results from the 2012National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Retrieved from www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresults2012/NSDUHresults2012.pdf




An excerpt from Navigating Addiction and Treatment: A Guide for Families, Addiction Policy Forum, 2020.




A Note From Addiction Policy Forum


Substance use disorders get worse over time. The earlier treatment starts the better the chances for long-term recovery. Many families are wrongly told to “wait for rock bottom” and that their loved one needs to feel ready to seek treatment in order for it to work. The idea that we should wait for the disease to get worse before seeking treatment is dangerous. Imagine if we waited until stage 4 to treat cancer. Decades of research has proven that the earlier someone is treated, the better their outcomes—and that treatment works just as well for patients who are compelled to start treatment by outside forces as it does for those who are self-motivated to enter treatment.


Help is Here


If you have questions or need to speak with someone for support, call or text (833) 301-4357 today. Our staff of trained counselors at Addiction Policy Forum provides free, confidential support to anyone in need of help with a Substance Use Disorder issue, including patients, families and healthcare providers.




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