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    Fast Facts About Addiction

    Addiction and substance use

    • Addiction is a complex disease with behavioral characteristics
    • 40 million Americans ages 12 and older have substance problems. Addiction and substance abuse affect more Americans than heart conditions, diabetes or cancer
    • Another 80 million people engage in risky use of addictive substances in ways that threaten public health and safety, but do not meet the clinical criteria for this disease
    • The earlier substance use starts, the greater the risk of addiction

    Teen addiction statistics

    • 75% of all high school students have used addictive substances, including cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine; 1 in 5 has a substance problem
    • Almost half (46%) of all high school students currently use addictive substances
    • 12% of all high school students and 1 in 3 current substance users have a substance problem
    • Addiction is a developmental disease: more than 90% of people with a substance problem began smoking, drinking or using other drugs before age 18; more than 96% began using these substances before the age of 21
    • 1 in 4 Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 has a substance problem, compared to 1 in 25 Americans who started using at age 21 or older
    • 46% of children under age 18 live in a household where someone age 18 or older is smoking, drinking excessively, misusing prescription drugs or using illegal drugs

    Screening, intervention & treatment

    • Addiction can be prevented and treated using a wide range of evidence-based screening, intervention and treatment tools and practices
    • Screening and brief interventions are appropriate for all substance users whereas medications and therapies are usually necessary for those with addiction and substance abuse
    • 7 in 10 people with the chronic diseases of high blood pressure, major depression and diabetes receive treatment, but only about 1 in 10 people who need treatment for substance problems receive any form of care. Of those who do receive treatment, most do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care
    • There are no clearly delineated, consistent and regulated national standards that stipulate who may provide addiction treatment in the U.S.; standards vary by state and by payer
    • Most medical professionals who should be providing treatment are not sufficiently trained to diagnose or treat addiction, and most of those providing addiction treatment are not equipped with the knowledge, skills or credentials necessary to provide the full range of evidence-based services
    • 44% of all referrals to publicly funded addiction treatment come from the justice system while less than 6% come from health care providers

    Cost of addiction & substance use

    • Addiction, substance use and abuse are the largest preventable and most costly health problems facing the U.S. today, responsible for more than 20% of deaths in the U.S.
    • Addiction, substance use and abuse cause or contribute to more than 70 other conditions requiring medical care, including cancer, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy complications, cirrhosis, ulcers and trauma, and account for one-third of all hospital in-patient costs
    • Addiction, substance use and abuse cause or contribute to a wide range of costly social consequences, including crime, accidents, suicide, child neglect and abuse, family dysfunction, unintended pregnancies and lost work productivity
    • Total costs to federal, state and local governments of addiction, substance use and abuse are at least $468 billion per year – almost $1,500 for every person in America
    • Of every dollar state and federal governments spend on substance problems only 2 cents goes to prevention and treatment while 96 cents pays for the consequences of our failure to prevent and treat this problem
    • In 2010, only $28 billion (1%) of total health care costs was is less than the amount spent on treating diabetes ($44 billion), cancer ($87 billion) or heart conditions ($107 billion), each of which affects far fewer people in the U.S.
    • Immediate costs per year of teen substance use include an estimated $68 billion associated with underage drinking and $14 billion in substance-related juvenile justice costs
    • Underage drinkers and adult drinkers, who have an alcohol problem, consume between 37.5% and 48.8% of the value of all alcohol sold in the U.S.

    Last Updated

    September 2023