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The 17 Most Misunderstood Facts About Drug Addiction


Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. The American Psychiatric Association explains substance use disorder as a complex, neurological “condition in which there is uncontrolled use of substance despite harmful consequence.” Addiction, although clinically recognized as a mental disorder, still carries a social stigma, which contribute to the circulating of misunderstood facts surrounding substance use disorder. The following seventeen facts about substance abuse and drug addiction can help to assuage any confusion:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a dramatic increase in alcohol consumption, as statistics provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) show that overall consumption of alcohol increased by 60.1%. 
  2. Overdose deaths reached an all-time high in 2021. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 100,306 fatal overdoses in America, which is a 28.5% increase from the previous year.
  3. A 2021 nationwide survey among teens indicated the largest single-year drop in the use of alcohol, marijuana, and vaped nicotine since the annual survey began in 1975.
  4. In 2020, college students reported significantly lower alcohol usage compared to 2019.
  5. A national study published out of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, indicates that 75% of people with addiction get better when they get help
  6. In 2020, opioid overdose deaths increased 38% nationally.
  7. 70% of users who try an illegal drug before age 13 develop a substance abuse disorder within the next 7 years compared to 27% of those who try an illegal drug after age 17.
  8. In states where marijuana has been legalized, emergency-room visits related to marijuana increased by 54% and hospitalizations increased by 101% in 2018.
  9. Marijuana use hit an all-time high in 2020.
  10. Excessive alcohol use was responsible for more than 140,000 deaths in the United States each year during 2015–2019, or more than 380 deaths per day.
  11. 3.8% of adults over the age of 18, or 9.5 million people, have both a substance abuse disorder (SUD) and a mental illness.
  12. 7% of veterans struggle with illegal drug use compared to 5.3% of the general population in the U.S. over age 18.
  13. Nearly 70% of law enforcement agencies in the western and midwestern areas of the United States view methamphetamine and fentanyl as the greatest threats to their populations.
  14. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of known psychoactive substances being sold increased from 269 to 479, and it continues to rise.
  15. An estimated 20 to 30% of the LGBTQIA+ community abuses substances, compared to about 9% of the population.
  16. The number of LGBTQIA+ members who had either a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder (or both) increased, rising by 20.5% from 2018 to 2019, to a total of 7.6 million.
  17. Among lower-income users, the most abused drugs are inhalants such as paint thinner, gasoline, paint, correction fluid and glue.
  18. Substance abuse is estimated to cost society $249 billion for alcohol misuse and $193 billion for illicit drug use each year in health care costs, lost productivity, and criminal justice costs.
  19. Addiction affects over 20 million Americans aged 12 and over.

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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