Substance use disorders continue to be a widespread problem in 2022. With the opioid crisis raging forward, new synthetic drugs like fentanyl being pushed to users, and chronic stress induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 brings a unique set of challenges for people struggling with addiction.
Treatment centers have to step up to provide resources for people to be able to recover. Knowing the statistics is the first step in creating greater awareness and addressing immediate needs. Here are 9 surprising statistics about substance use in 2022.
1. Prevalence of Substance Use Disorders
Current estimates from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration indicate that 15.4% of all adult Americans struggle with a substance use disorder each year.
This percentage accounts for nearly 39 million people. The widespread prevalence of substance use disorders solidifies the need for quality treatment options and resources for people seeking recovery.
Alcohol is by far the most commonly abused substance: 10.2% of all Americans struggle with an alcohol use disorder, far more than any other substance. In descending order, marijuana, prescription drugs, opioids, and stimulants are the next most common substance use disorders.
2. Rates of Illicit Drug Use
Rates of illicit substance use are much higher than substance use disorders. Including marijuana, half of all Americans have tried an illicit substance in their lifetime. One in five have used illicit drugs in the last year.
Here are the current numbers of people who have reported illicit substance use in the last year:
- Marijuana: 49.6 million
- Prescription Painkillers: 9.3 million
- Hallucinogens: 7.1 million
- Tranquilizers or Sedatives: 6.2 million
- Cocaine: 5.1 million
- Prescription Stimulants: 5.1 million
- LSD: 2.6 million
- Methamphetamines: 2.6 million
- Ecstasy: 2.6 million
- Inhalants: 2.4 million
- Heroin: 0.9 million
- Crack: 0.7 million
From this data, we can see that marijuana is by far the most popular “illicit” drug, though it is increasingly becoming legalized across the country. We can also see that prescription drug misuse is the next most popular form of recreational drug use, giving us an indication of where to focus attention for treatment and prevention programs.
3. Co-Occurring Disorders
Co-occurring disorders are when a person has a mental illness alongside substance use disorder. Common co-occurring disorders include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Personality disorders
Current estimates suggest that 37.9% of all people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental illness. Research from government agencies highly recommends dual-diagnosis care for these clients, as it delivers much better treatment outcomes and makes it more likely that people will complete treatment.
4. Overdose Death Rates
The rate of death by overdose has been growing year by year since 1999. The trend continues upward, with almost 92,000 people dying from a drug-involved overdose in the year 2020.
Researchers believe this growth has two key factors: the stress produced from lockdowns and COVID-19, and the increasing prevalence of dangerous drugs like fentanyl.
5. Synthetic Drug Use
Synthetic drugs are on the rise. The most well-known of these is fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that is partly responsible for the huge increase in opioid-related overdose deaths. But synthetic drugs also include the quasi-legal research chemicals that have become widely available throughout the country.
The term “research chemicals” refers to a wide variety of drugs that can be bought in stores or online. Some of these have received widespread media attention, such as the synthetic amphetamines known as bath salts or the artificial “marijuana” known as spice.
But new drugs are introduced to the market at an alarming rate, with little information available on the safety or addictive potential of these synthetic drugs.
6. Shifting Toward Telemedicine
In 2020, almost a third of all patients receiving medical services did so through telemedicine. This rapid growth was obviously related to COVID-19, but two and a half years into the pandemic, it looks like telemedicine is here to stay.
Nearly a quarter of all patients continue to use telemedicine as their primary source of medical treatment, and many substance use treatment centers now offer virtual therapy as an option for their clients.
7. New Treatment Options
Exciting new treatment methods are being developed in the treatment of substance use disorders. New treatments such as Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS) have shown significant improvement in treatment outcomes for people suffering from substance use disorder and other mental illnesses.
A recent study showed the remarkable effects of Deep TMS on people addicted to alcohol: treatment recipients reported heavy drinking on only 2.9% of days after receiving treatment, compared to the placebo group who drank 10.6% of days. This huge reduction in the rate of alcohol consumption shows immense promise for this novel technique in substance use treatment.
In addition, Deep TMS can be remarkably effective at helping people overcome depression and anxiety. 75% of Deep TMS participants show a clinically significant response, and 51% achieve total remission from depression.
This treatment seems to be particularly effective for people whose depression has proven to be resistant to medication, making Deep TMS a valuable resource for treating mental illness and co-occurring disorders.
8. Teenage Substance Use
In remarkably good news, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that teen substance use has shown the largest single-year drop since it began surveying adolescent drug use in 1975.
Illicit drug use dropped 12% among 10th graders and 5% among eighth and 12th graders. This includes drops in marijuana, alcohol, and nicotine use – including vaping, which has been a concern for many parents over the last several years.
Researchers hypothesize that the decline in teenage substance use is partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic reducing the availability of illicit substances for teens. Other concerns, such as a slight increase in mental health symptoms, are also attributed to the pandemic.
NIDA is now looking into which elements specifically contributed to the lowered rates of substance use in teens. Current theories suggest that increased family involvement, reduced peer pressure, and decreased access to substances could be driving factors, but further research is required to make an appropriate determination.
9. Barriers to Treatment
Substantial barriers to treatment continue to exist for people who need substance use treatment. NIDA has collected the following data identifying potential barriers that prevent people from seeking treatment, even when they acknowledge that they need help with their addiction:
- 38.4% said they were not ready to stop substance use
- 35.1% reported that they could not afford the cost of treatment and that they had no health insurance
- 13.1% worried that entering treatment would affect their neighbors’ opinions of them
- 13.0% feared that they would lose their job if they attended substance use treatment
- 11.5% said that they did not know where they could go for treatment
- 9.9% reported that they had health insurance, but it did not cover the cost of treatment
- 9.0% reported that none of the programs they looked at for treatment had the treatment type they desired
This data gives clear indications of where substance use treatment centers and policymakers can start to make treatment more accessible in 2022 and beyond.
Cost seems to be the largest barrier for people, an obstacle that can be easily overcome with more equitable access to insurance. Improving public perception of substance use treatment may show reductions in other barriers as well.
In Summary: Substance Use in 2022
These statistics show both positive and negative trends in the treatment of substance use disorders in 2022. While there have been some clear improvements, such as the rapid adaptation to telemedicine, novel treatment methods, and a reduction in teen substance use, other statistics show a more harrowing story.
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have had a remarkable impact on the national overdose rate, and synthetic chemicals are a highly dangerous and addictive source of illicit substances. It’s also clear that we are by no means past the opioid epidemic.
After marijuana, prescription medications are by far the most misused recreational drug. This statistic is particularly worrying, especially given the fact that many people will transition to heroin use after becoming addicted to painkillers, which puts them at risk of being exposed to drugs laced with fentanyl. Prescription opioids are still a monumental cause for concern in the coming years.
There also seems to be room for improvement in regards to co-occurring disorders. Mental illness is on the rise with the stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, and many people may turn to substance use as a coping method.
Dual diagnostic care can help these people by treating mental illness and substance use simultaneously, creating better treatment outcomes down the line. With so many people experiencing co-occurring disorders, an integrative model should become the norm, not the exception.
Lastly, novel treatment methods are showing significant promise. Treatments like Deep TMS and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) can substantially improve people’s ability to recover from addiction, though widespread adoption among treatment centers is still not present.
If you want to learn more about how APN Lodge uses cutting-edge treatment options in our addiction treatment program, contact us by filling out our online form or using the chat function on our website. While the statistics around substance use can be overwhelming, there is hope for healing. We can help you find your way forward.
- Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1
- “Overdose Death Rates.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 20 Jan. 2022, https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates.
- NIDA. “Percentage of adolescents reporting drug use decreased significantly in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic endured.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 15 Dec. 2021, https://nida.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/2021/12/percentage-of-adolescents-reporting-drug-use-decreased-significantly-in-2021-as-the-covid-19-pandemic-endured