most used drugs in america

What Are The Most Used Drugs In America And How To Avoid Them

The national average for overdoses in the U.S. was 14 per 100,000 in 2016. These numbers originate from what users are reporting voluntarily. Actual numbers are much higher, as the criminalization of drug use encourages secrecy.

Substance abuse is a public health problem, not a criminal problem. The less accessible help is for users, the more that are stuck using. Drug trends show where more public education is needed to combat addiction.

Here are the top 10 most used drugs in America.

1. Alcohol

Nearly 140 million people drink alcohol in America. Fifteen-million Americans qualify as alcoholics, but most do not acknowledge this. This is what makes alcohol so dangerous of an addiction. 

The casual nature of drinking makes it often overlooked by family and friends. The damage to the liver over time can lead to cirrhosis and impact the body’s immune system. Alcohol combined with other drugs can add another layer of lethality.

2. Tobacco

Over 40 million people in America still smoke cigarettes. This number is slightly skewed now that vape pens have risen in popularity. Nicotine is the common thread of addiction, forcing a high consumption of fillers and byproducts.

The byproducts in cigarettes have been long documented, claiming 480,000 lives each year. While vape pens do not contain any of those byproducts, they can contain their own carcinogens. Knowing how dangerous vaping is could become more evident in decades to come.

3. Marijuana

The legalization and decriminalization of marijuana have led to a surge in users. Estimates range from 10-20 million users per month, but marijuana is a unique case. Because marijuana has no addictive properties and has medicinal value, it’s hard to pin down the number of people that use it recreationally.   

Doctors prescribe marijuana for a variety of illnesses, from pain to epilepsy and cancer trials. 

4. Cocaine

Cocaine sits only behind cigarettes and alcohol for the most used and highest mortality rates. Crack cocaine was a huge epidemic in the 80s when cartels were smuggling tons from South America. The aftermath resulted in generations of communities imprisoned or dead.

Cocaine is and has always been an unspoken problem in affluent spaces. All major entertainment industries and financial industries drive the demand for cocaine.

5. Heroin

Heroin is the final stop on the train of opioid addiction for many. Addiction often begins with a legal form of heroin, such as oxycodone. At one point, doctors prescribed pain pills like candy.

Those with toothaches, sprains, minor lacerations, and more received opioids for treatment. Those patients developed a tolerance for synthetic heroin and sought out the real thing. Overdosing on heroin is a quick and fatal process. 

6. Benzodiazepines

Alongside oxycodone, “Benzos” are another extremely addictive and popular prescription for abuse. Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin are examples of drugs deemed as “downers”. They’re prescribed to treat depression and anxiety.

Over 400,000 people use them to “feel good” or escape from reality. These drugs become a dangerous dependency. They can transform someone’s personality and cause them to ruin all aspects of their lives.

7. Fentanyl

This synthetic form of heroin deserves its own mention. It is responsible for more than half of all overdoses in America. It is 50 times stronger than heroin, 100 times stronger than morphine and the last stop for many on the opioid ladder.

Opioid addiction treatment is the only way to escape death from a fentanyl overdose. It kills quickly and it only takes one-quarter of a milligram to overdose. 

8. MDMA

This drug became popularized in raves across the globe in the 90s and 2000s. It quickly grew into more mainstream spaces of rock (ecstasy) and hip hop (molly) concerts and clubs. The reason why MDMA is so connected to music spaces is the effects it has on people.

MDMA is a stimulant and a hallucinogen. It makes users’ sensories stronger; dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels are higher. This results in a happier and more exciting experience, increasing arousal as the cherry on top.

Everything looks harmless and fun on the outside, but MDMA addiction is serious. It ruins lives by creating a chemical imbalance, with massive mood swings. Depression and insomnia haunt users, pushing some to the brink of suicide.

9. Methamphetamine

Meth works like cocaine but is less predictable in potency. Meth wears off after users quickly reach their climax of dopamine. This results in the consumption of large quantities of the drug to keep the high going.

Meth’s damage to the heart and liver happens over time, quickly aging the user. It also hinders the user’s motor skills and ability to maintain a normal appetite. Combine this with a lack of sleep from being high and methamphetamines will destroy a person’s life.

10. Inhalants

These drugs may not receive as much attention as opioids or alcohol, but they are very popular. Over 140,000 people use inhalants, including paint, gas, cleaners, nail polish, and pressurized air. These harmful gases are potent and, unfortunately, easy to access.

The worst part about inhalants is that they do severe damage to the brain, and quitting before serious damage is difficult. Intervention must occur from the first sign of abuse.

Quitting the Most Used Drugs in America

All drugs are deadly if abused in high enough quantities. The most used drugs in America don’t need to result in pointless death. All drug overdoses are preventable if there is someone who cares.

Quitting is a difficult journey that most people cannot do alone. If someone you know is struggling with addiction, get them the help they deserve. To help someone you care about, you need to remind them that they’re not alone.

Staging an intervention might save someone’s life. To learn more, visit The Discovery House. Find out more about our substance abuse rehab programs for all major addictions.

Let us help close the chapter on addiction and continue the journey down a better path.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.