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Addiction Statistics Every Public Health Professional Should Know

With 21 million Americans suffering from substance abuse, community health workers are critical to education and treatment.

Whether you’re a public health professional, family member, or friend, chances are you’ve directly or indirectly dealt with addiction issues. Addiction is everywhere and comes in many forms, but substance abuse—including tobacco, alcohol, drug, and prescription opioid addiction1—may be the most acute of the addiction crises we face today.

The Addiction Center defines addiction as “a mental disorder which compels someone to repeatedly uses substances or engage in behaviors even though they have harmful consequences.” It may cause catastrophic impacts for those suffering from substance abuse problems as well as for the family, friends, co-workers, community health workers, and, in some cases, bystanders, around them. In the United States alone, addiction claims thousands of lives annually, and impacts millions more. Substance abuse can also ruin careers, marriages, and friendships, and endanger the health and safety of those experiencing addiction firsthand as well as others.2

Addiction Statistics Every Public Health Professional Should Know

If you’re interested in pursuing a public health career, it’s important to understand the severity of our nation’s substance abuse issues. The Addiction Center provides the following sobering statistics2:

  • 21 million – approximate number of Americans facing a substance addiction
  • 10% of people with addictions ever receive treatment
  • $600 billion – substance abuse’s annual cost to the U.S. economy
  • 1 in 20 deaths are caused by alcohol worldwide
  • 130 Americans die from opioid overdoses each day

Which addiction issues are Americans facing?2

  • 34 million smoke cigarettes
  • 30–40 million smoke marijuana every year
  • 15 million suffer from alcohol use disorders
  • 5 million regularly use cocaine
  • 2.1 million misuse opioids
  • 1.4 million use hallucinogens on a regular basis
  • 774,000 regularly use methamphetamine
  • 494,000 regularly use heroin2

And in 2017 alone2:

  • 1 in 5 overdose deaths involved cocaine, an increase of 34% from 2016
  • 34.2 million DUIs were issued for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • 47,600 overdose deaths resulted from opioid involvement
  • 15,000 died from heroin overdoses
  • 10,000 died from meth overdoses after regular use

In a country of 329 million people,3 these statistics are staggering. Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are tied to substance abuse, making health education and treatment essential.

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