Here Are The 10 Most Common Addictions

All data collected from the 2020 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Abuse and Mental Health.

1. Alcohol

As of 2020, 10.2% (or 28.3 million) people aged 12 or older reported struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

By far, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the United States. In fact, according to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Abuse and Mental Health, nearly 140 million people reported drinking alcohol in the last month. To put that into perspective, that’s nearly half of all people over the age of 12.

The social acceptance of drinking can make an alcohol addiction hard to spot. Despite its legal status, alcohol’s potential for abuse opens users up to many health risks and possible addiction. Alcohol abuse has numerous negative consequences. In addition to deaths from liver disease and alcohol overdose, drunk driving claims thousands of lives every year. In 2021 alone, alcohol-related deaths rose nearly 34% to over 52,000, not including the nearly 56,000 deaths caused by chronic liver disease or cirrhosis.

2. Nicotine

As of 2020, among people aged 12 or older, 8.5%, (or about 23.6 million) of Americans reported struggling with a nicotine addiction.

Nicotine addiction may not appear as harmful as many other addictions. This is likely because tobacco products are legal and easy to get, and the worst side effects of using them take time to develop. Tobacco use claims more lives than any other addictive substance, accounting for nearly 480,000 deaths each year.

While the rate of those who report having an addiction to nicotine have fallen in recent years, the popularity and social acceptance of nicotine vaping devices has caused a significant uptick in the number of young adults using nicotine. Among people aged 12 or older, roughly 20.7% (or 57.3 million) reported using wither tobacco products or nicotine vaping devices in the last 30 days.

Many smokers cannot quit, despite knowing smoking’s impact on their health. Wanting to quit but being unable to do so is a telltale sign of addiction and a need for treatment.

Paid Advertising. We receive advertising fees from purchases through BetterHelp links.

Online Addiction Counseling

Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp.

Get Matched
Begin Therapy
  • Personalized Matching Process
  • Easy Online Scheduling
  • 30,000+ Licensed Therapists


3. Marijuana

As of 2020, 5.1% (or 14.2 million) of Americans aged 12 or older had marijuana use disorder.

The legalization of marijuana in some states has made the drug’s use more socially acceptable. This trend can distract people from marijuana’s addictive potential. Rates of marijuana addiction might also be growing due to increasing potency (over 60%) over the past decade.

Among people aged 12 or older, nearly 18% (or 50 million) reported using marijuana in the last year. Of those who report using marijuana, roughly 7.1% of 8th graders, 17.3% of 10th graders, and 30.5% of 12th graders reported using marijuana within the last year.

4. Opioids

In 2020, 1.1% (or 2.7 million) of Americans aged 12 or older had an opioid use disorder.

It may come as a surprise to see opioids lower on the list of the most common addictions, however, the rate of those who report struggling with an opioid use disorder remain low, around 1 to 2%. With that said, opioids remain one of the largest public health crises in the country. In 2021 alone, opioid related deaths rose to a staggering 100,306; a nearly 30% increase from 2020.

According to data collected by SAMHSA, the most common way people obtain opioids is through a prescription, not drug dealers or strangers. Drugs like codeine, Vicodin, and OxyContin are commonly prescribed to treat pain. Painkillers’ prescription status does not mean they aren’t addictive. Addiction to opioid painkillers can develop from seemingly harmless levels of use. Most patients who become addicted to prescription painkillers don’t notice they have a problem until they try to stop use. Painkillers are also abused without a prescription, which can also lead to an addiction.

Explore These Featured Treatment Centers

5. Inhalants

As of 2020, around 0.9% (or 2.4 million) Americans 12 or older had an addiction to inhalants.

Inhalant addiction is particularly dangerous because inhalants are volatile toxic substances. The effects of these substances are intense and can have immediate consequences including hospitalization or death. Chemicals prevalent in inhalants can linger in the body and brain long after stopping use, making complete recovery more difficult.

6. Cocaine

As of 2020, around 0.5% (or 1.3 million) Americans aged 12 or older reported having an addiction to cocaine.

Rates of cocaine addiction in the US are dropping, however, it remains a major threat to public health. While the decline is slow, crack cocaine, which is cheaper and more intense than regular cocaine, is responsible for many crippling addictions and ruined lives.

Among people aged 12 or older in 2020, nearly 2% (or 5.2 million people) reported using cocaine in the last month. Additionally, in 2021 an estimated 0.2% of 8th graders, 0.6% of 10th graders, and 1.2% of 12th graders reported using cocaine in the past 12 months.

7. Heroin

As of 2020, around 0.3% (or 902,000) of Americans 12 or older reported struggling with a heroin addiction.

Heroin use has been growing in the United States, particularly among young women. What is even more alarming is the growing presence of other illicit drugs, namely fentanyl, that are being laced with heroin in order to increase its effects. In 2020, approximately 13,165 people died from an overdose involving heroin, many of which are believed to have involved fentanyl.

Heroin’s severe withdrawal symptoms make beating an addiction an incredibly difficult task. Treating heroin addiction typically requires a combination of therapy and medications to help manage symptoms of withdrawal and cravings.

There is growing concern over heroin users contracting and spreading diseases like HIV and AIDS by sharing needles for injection. While harm reduction sites or safe needle exchange locations can help prevent disease and overdose for those with an active addiction, receiving treatment at an inpatient rehab remains your best change for a successful recovery.

8. Stimulants

In 2020, 0.2% (roughly 500,000) of Americans 12 or older had a stimulant use disorder.

Stimulants range from prescription drugs, such as Adderall or Ritalin, to illicit substances like meth. These drugs are highly addictive, and intense withdrawal symptoms make quitting difficult. Stimulant users can quickly build a tolerance to the drug’s euphoric “high,” leading to increased use and risk of overdose.

Like opioids, the majority of stimulant abuse in the US comes by way of prescriptions given by a doctor or psychiatrist. In 2020, approximately 6.6% (or 16 million) of US adults used prescription stimulants in the last year. Of those, 2.1% (or 5 million) misused their prescription, and nearly 500,000 did so in a way that qualified as a stimulant use disorder.

9. Benzodiazepines

In 2020, nearly 2% (5 million) of Americans who were prescribed benzodiazepines reported misusing them. Of those, roughly 0.2% (or 500,000) of met the requirements for a benzodiazepine use disorder.

“Benzos” — such as Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin — are prescribed as mood-regulating drugs to manage conditions like anxiety and stress. Those developing an addiction to these drugs oftentimes aren’t aware until they can’t function normally without the substance. Benzodiazepines are especially dangerous because of their powerful impact on the brain’s chemical makeup. Withdrawals can be deadly without medical assistance during detox.

10. Barbiturates

As of 2020, 0.2% (or 500,000) of Americans 12 or older had tried them before.

Millions of Americans are prescribed barbiturates, which could be included in the larger category of sleeping pills, to treat tension and sleep disorders. Every year, thousands of prescription users build a tolerance — and ensuing addiction — to drugs like Lunesta and Ambien. Sleeping pills can produce mind-altering effects that lead to continued abuse.

Get Help Today

No matter what substance you may be using, treatment programs can help establish a recovery plan that can help. For more information, contact a treatment provider today.