The Presence of Substance Abuse In the U.S.

Substance Use Disorder has become a major issue in the US and a much talked about topic in recent years. Opioid addiction has been on the rise for decades, and the increased understanding of addiction as a mental disorder has lead to more awareness of the issue as a whole. However, those who have never experienced addiction, either themselves or through a loved one, only rely on a hypothetical understanding of exactly how common addiction can be.

To demonstrate the prevalence of substance use in the US, we analyzed a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) documenting the number of people who were diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in 2017. We also examined the number of people who received treatment for their addiction that same year. The results of our analysis can be found below.


Percentage of americans afflicted with substance use disorder


According to SAMHSA

If you were to stand in a room with 100 people, 17 of them will have been diagnosed with an alcohol-based Substance Use Disorder over the past year. Of those 17 people, only 2 will have received treatment for their SUD. In addition, 12 people will have been diagnosed with a drug-based SUD, and only 3 of those people will have received treatment for their addiction.


Statistics of mostly use drug among americansOf those aged 12 and up in 2017, about 15% of people have used marijuana over the past year, 4% have used pain relievers, and 4% used opioids. About 2% of people have used cocaine, tranquilizers, or stimulants over the past year. Only 1% have used LSD, ecstasy, inhalants, methamphetamine, or sedatives.


13 people out of 100 Americans are addicited


Based on statistics, 13 out of every 100 people in the US needed treatment for a substance abuse disorder of some kind in 2017. Of those 13 people, three of them fell into the 12-17 age group, 8 were between the ages of 18 and 24, and 2 were older than 25.


Statistics shows 13 out of 100 people in the US needed treatment for a substance abuse disorderAccording to SAMHSA, of those who needed treatment for drugs and alcohol, only a small percentage actually received treatment. Of those diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder, only 17% received treatment for alcohol. Only 12% of those people received treatment for drugs. An even smaller number, just 4% of people who needed treatment were able to get help with both drugs and alcohol.


Reason behind people don't get treatment for Substance abuse disorder in the US


Of those who needed to get treatment in 2017, the biggest reason people did not get help was due to stigma. People were afraid of judgment from people at their work or in their communities if they sought treatment for their addiction. The second most common reason for not seeking treatment was healthcare reasons. The cost was too high for people to be able to afford the help they needed. About 40% of people who needed treatment were not ready to stop using, and 1 out of 4 people who needed treatment was in denial and did not believe that treatment was necessary.

Millions of people every year are diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder, but only a small fraction of those who need treatment actually seek help. The stigma associated with addiction, the cost of rehab, and the overall struggle of admitting that treatment is necessary in the first place all leads to people failing to get the help they need. Being able to read the signs and act as an advocate for those in your life touched by addiction can help those suffering from Substance Use Disorder find the right program and recover effectively. You can find more information on how to help those with SUD here.

Can I use this information?

The information and graphics in this blog post can be used and displayed by all commercial and non-commercial websites without charge. However, use is only permitted with proper attribution to When using this information or any of these graphics, please include a backlink to this page.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.