Drug Addictions in the U.S.: The Top 10 Most Abused Drugs in America

Drug addiction in the U.S. directly impacts nearly 20 million people. Despite the negative physiological consequences of addiction, individuals are often unable to stop their substance abuse without assistance. Professional and medical care, usually starting with detox, is often required to break addiction and is an encouraged step in recovery and the pursuit of a sober life. 

What Is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a chronic medical disease that affects a person’s brain. Addiction leads to behavioral changes that make it impossible for the individual to control their use of the drug. A person addicted to drugs will often continue to use despite negative consequences, which can include physical and mental health issues, interpersonal problems, and conflicts at work or school.

Symptoms of Drug Addiction

You may be one of the 20 million individuals suffering from drug addiction in the U.S. if you are:

Drug Addiction in the U.S.

Around 19.7 million American adults battle drug addiction. In 2017, drug addiction in the U.S. cost approximately $740 billion due to the expense associated with lost workplace productivity, health care, and crime.

Alcohol is considered a drug by the Mayo Clinic. Alcohol abuse (severe abuse is called alcoholism) is one of the most common types of addiction in the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of Americans who battle addiction struggle with alcohol.

According to a 2019 survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the top 10 most abused drugs by users over the age of 12 in the U.S. are: 

The Top 10 Most Abused Drugs in the U.S.

Of the most common types of addiction, both prescription and illicit drugs made the list. Another you may not have heard of, as it goes widely unpublicized, is inhalant abuse. This type of addiction uses household products that can be obtained easily and legally to get high. 

The top 10 most abused drugs in the U.S., in order by the number of American users, are:


Alcohol takes the No. 1 slot in the top 10 most abused drugs, as roughly 1 in 12 adult Americans abuse it. Individuals who severely abuse alcohol may feel that they cannot function normally without drinking. Due to their physical and emotional dependence on it, they are unable to stop or control their consumption. 

A person who is addicted to alcohol will usually be unable to relax, sleep, or be social without drinking. Their work, relationships, and personal lives will often suffer due to issues like lying about how much they drink, drinking and driving, forgotten responsibilities, and even violent behavior while under the influence.

Alcohol abuse can damage the brain’s cerebral cortex, the hippocampus, and the cerebellum. These areas are responsible for problem-solving, decision making, memory, and movement. Additionally, alcohol abuse can cause liver damage and pancreatitis, and increase the chances of developing throat, mouth, and esophagus cancer. Withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, shakiness, and even seizures. 


Marijuana is a type of depressant, which is a mind-altering substance. Regular use of marijuana can lead to your brain stopping the natural production of anandamide, which is its version of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Eventually, your brain will stop producing anandamide and rely on the THC from marijuana to function. 

Marijuana addiction inhibits performance in all areas of life. Short-term effects of marijuana depend on the person but most commonly include drowsiness, poor perceptions of time and space, a strong sense of relaxation, and hunger. Long-term physical and mental effects of marijuana abuse include respiratory problems, reduced cognitive abilities, and an inability to complete complex tasks well. Prolonged abuse of marijuana can lead the user to try more dangerous substances included on this list of the top 10 most abused drugs.

Withdrawal symptoms of marijuana addiction include loss of appetite, irritability, anxiety and restlessness, and an inability to sleep. 

Pain relievers 

Prescription drugs feature heavily among the most common types of addiction. When used within the parameters set by medical professionals, they can help you live a healthy life. Abuse happens when you start using them improperly, such as taking more than the recommended dose. Prescribed pain relievers, such as morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone make up this category. 

Codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone are all examples of opioids, which are often prescribed by doctors. Using them for a short time will not often lead to addiction, but prolonged use without medical supervision can. Long-term use can cause the brain to reduce the production of endorphins. Pain relievers are among the most common drug addictions in the U.S. because tolerance can lead to the user taking larger doses to get the same high.

Mixing opioids with other medications like barbiturates and benzodiazepines (included on this list of top 10 most abused drugs) and alcohol is exceedingly dangerous. Mixing increases your risk of breathing problems and death.


The top two most abused forms of hallucinogens are LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and ecstasy. Neither substance seems to produce a physical addiction, as tolerance builds up quickly and increasing the dose doesn’t provide improved results. However, users can still get strong cravings and continue to abuse the drug. 


LSD causes long-lasting hallucinations, commonly referred to as trips. The physical effects of LSD include increased heart rate, blood pressure, dry mouth, and shakiness. LSD does not produce physical withdrawal symptoms, though users can feel fatigued for hours after a trip. 


Ecstasy causes the brain to produce more serotonin (stabilizes mood and feelings of happiness), dopamine (influences how we feel pleasure), and norepinephrine (a stress hormone and neurotransmitter). Ecstasy causes short-term euphoria and energy. After this boost, the user is often left feeling confused, depressed, anxious, or unable to sleep. 

Ecstasy use can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, blurred vision, sweats or chills, and nausea. 


Depressants are another prescription substance included among the most common types of addiction and are often used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants. Taking them for too long requires larger doses to get the same effect. Combining them with alcohol can slow your heartbeat and breathing, and even lead to death.

Symptoms of depressant abuse include mood changes and poor judgment, as well as trouble walking, concentrating, remembering, and speaking. If you’ve been using depressants for too long, suddenly cutting yourself off could lead to seizures. 


Short and Long Term Effects of Dilaudid Addiction

Xanax addiction leads to physiological dependence. Often prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders, Xanax is a mind-altering chemical and affects the brain in ways similar to alcohol. Taking large doses can have the following consequences:

Experts recommend prescribing Xanax only for brief periods of time to avoid addiction. 


Cocaine is the first highly addictive illicit stimulant included on the list of top 10 most abused drugs. Cocaine tells your brain to release dopamine, which creates an intense, short-term sense of euphoria. Because the effect lasts such a short time, people use cocaine repeatedly to get the same feeling.

Cocaine addiction is extremely dangerous and can cause numerous health risks, such as:

Cocaine is one of the three most common drug addictions in the U.S. that can impact unborn children. It can lead to spontaneous miscarriage, birth defects, and fetal addiction.

Prescription Stimulants

Stimulants open airways and narrow blood vessels, leading to increased heart rate, blood sugar, and blood pressure. They were used first to treat asthma and obesity and are now prescribed to people with ADHD, ADD, depression, and narcolepsy as they boost alertness, energy, and attention. Abusing stimulants can lead to weight loss, appetite loss, high blood pressure, paranoia, and heart rhythm problems. 

One of the most common types of addiction for prescription stimulants is Adderall addiction. 


Long-term abuse of Adderall can lead to a myriad of side effects, including:


Many people are likely unaware of this possible addiction. Inhalant abuse is less widely recorded than the other most common types of addiction, but millions of Americans still abuse them. These drugs are inhaled into the lungs to produce a 15- to 30-minute high. Many inhalants can be found in legal household substances like hairspray, lighter fluid, paint thinners, glue, and gasoline, but are toxic when absorbed by the body. 

Most drugs can’t pass easily to the brain after ingestion or injection, but inhalants can pass from your lungs to your bloodstream to your brain very easily. Frequent use of inhalants causes high levels of the substances to gather in the brain. Because they’re toxic, inhalants can lead to physical harm and death. 

Inhalants can be depressants or stimulants. Thus, inhalant abuse can exhibit symptoms similar to the other drugs covered on this list of the top 10 most abused drugs. Signs of abuse include:

Withdrawal symptoms include: 


Meth is the second highly addictive illegal stimulant included on the list of top 10 most abused drugs. Its high is short-lived, requiring frequent use. Addiction can lead to mental health issues like anxiety, confusion, insomnia, hallucinations and delusions, and paranoia. It causes the same physical effects as cocaine (e.g., high blood pressure, malnourishment) while also causing dental issues. 

Just as with cocaine, addiction to meth by a pregnant woman can result in spontaneous miscarriage, birth defects, and fetal addiction.


Heroin is a highly addictive illicit opioid. Like cocaine and ecstasy, it causes short-term euphoria. After the high, it often leaves the user confused, with a dry mouth and heavy-feeling limbs.

Heroin addiction can cause terrible physical side effects, including: 

Heroin also suppresses your breathing, which can lead to comas, brain damage, and death. Heroin is the third drug on the list of top 10 most abused drugs that impacts unborn children.

The Role of Detox in Drug Addiction Recovery

peer pressure and substance abuse

Recovery from the most common types of addiction begins with detoxification. Detox is an important step in recovery and pursuing a sober life. During this step, the body is cleansed of toxins associated with drug abuse, allowing the metabolism and mental processes to reorient. 

Detox centers provide medical attention and psychological support during the process. Depending on the severity of the drug abuse and addiction, detox can cause additional side effects that may require immediate medical attention.

Undergoing detox without medical attention is dangerous. Often, an individual must be slowly weaned off the substance instead of completely cut off. Even done slowly, detox can cause physical and psychological changes, such as:

In severe cases, detox can cause: 

The time it takes to fully detox hinges on the level of abuse. Individuals suffering from addiction will often require weeks to properly detox. 

Residential Detox

Residential detox is a 24/7 supervised program at the Coastal Detox facility. The average length of stay for individuals going through residential detox is 14 days. During their stay, individuals will undergo therapy and begin preparing for addiction treatment. 

Outpatient Detox

Outpatient detox is a medical treatment program in which individuals undergo detox while still remaining at home. This allows people who need to work or care for family to receive the treatment they need while still managing responsibilities. Coastal Detox offers an outpatient detox program

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Detox in Florida

Coastal Detox is a Florida-based drug and alcohol detox center. We offer detox program options for several of the top 10 most abused drugs in the U.S.

Alcohol Detox

You are more likely to relapse if you try to detox from alcohol on your own. The alcohol detox program at Coastal Detox often prescribes medication to address these symptoms. The medication is not a cure, but certain kinds have been proven to help in recovery. 

Heroin Detox

Withdrawal symptoms during heroin detox can occur within the first 24 hours of not using the drug. The severity of symptoms depends on the level of abuse. While the symptoms are not life-threatening, complications can occur, which is why it’s best to seek medical assistance during detox. Such complications include:

Xanax Detox

Most professionals recommend seeking a residential detox program for Xanax addiction. After detox, individuals are encouraged to seek a treatment program that will provide them with the tools and strategies to remain sober.

Marijuana Detox

Evidence finds that marijuana is not addictive in the same way as some of the other top 10 most abused drugs are. However, individuals will often experience psychological distress when they are unable to use marijuana, such as agitation, mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, and an inability to concentrate. Inpatient and outpatient detox programs for marijuana are recommended. 

How Coastal Detox Helps Residents in Florida

Drug addiction in the U.S. impacts almost 20 million people. We provide holistic detox programs in Florida, which focus on full body, mind, and soul well-being as opposed to a single aspect of an individual’s health. In this way, we combine holistic therapies with modern medicine to help you overcome addiction.

Connor Barton
Connor Barton
The staff here is amazing. Caring and attentive. I finally kicked the sticks and couldn’t be happier.
Jacob Rashid
Jacob Rashid
So nice to have Grandma back to her old self. She has struggled with xannies for as long as I can remember. The staff were so attentive and met her where she was, not where they wanted her to be. Thank you Coastal Detox!
Tara Payne
Tara Payne
I struggled with alcohol addiction for most of my life. After many tries nothing worked.It was my 43rd birthday and I wasn't gonna see 44 if I didn't get help. I called around and found Coastal. So glad I did. I am so grateful for EVERYONE there. This beautiful facility is not just a detox. They actually have programs to help you learn to live a sober life and enjoy being yourself again! Entire staff is awesome! (Ms Diana ❤️ and Mrs Karen ❤️)They really understand how your feeling as most are in recovery also. If your looking for some help please give them a call. I give them 10+stars. Five months sober now!!! Thank you Coastal!!!
Bob Hawkins
Bob Hawkins
The entire staff of Coastal is great, the therapists, the nurses, the techs, everyone. It’s a great environment to begin your recovery in. As an added perk, the food is some of the best you’ll ever have thanks to the chefs.
Tony Givens
Tony Givens
My experience at coastal detox was very good, the staff there is terrific. They helped me get through the process of detox in a safe and professional manor.
Jodi Silverman Goldberg
Jodi Silverman Goldberg
It been almost a year!! Thank y’all
Matthew Mcnulty
Matthew Mcnulty
This is the top tier Rehab/Detox center in Southeast FL. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them. Their attention to detail is impressive. They specialize in treating alcohol abuse among several other conditions. If you or a loved one are looking for a blueprint on how to sober up…Coastal Detox will lead you there.
Mary Katz
Mary Katz
My experience with Coastal has been one of empathy, kindness and family. From Admissions to Nurses to techs I have never felt so cared for. Food and drink 24/7. Coastal is a place I went twice. First time 14 days next 6days later for another 11. At 59 and umpteen detoxes Coastal by far is Heaven Sent! As a Nutritionist and Trainer, I'm so happy to be back....the Mary ,who was lost:)
vicky ehr
vicky ehr
Great place . Helped me so much I am a 64 year old woman and this place got me sober with dignity and kindness. I highly recommend it plus the food is incredible. Rooms are really well laid out. 2 guys to a room . Each bed has its own t.v with head sets so you dont bother your roomate. Take an extra pillow and comfort blanket from home. At least 3 pairs of pj’ s sock and shoes and comfortable clothing fit. You do your own laundry there. I will send you the link to look at. After thinking all morning this is hands down the place for you. Lots of young people and fantastic therapists. For my wonderful son who suffers. From addiction the way I do.

No products in the cart.