an image of someone dealing with a drug addiction

Drug Addiction: Facts, Statistics, and Examples

man looking down with his head in his hands

What Is Drug Addiction?

If you are addicted to drugs, prescription medications, or alcohol, there are many addiction treatment programs available to help you, even if you are suffering from a severe drug addiction.

A drug addiction is defined by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) as a chronic brain disorder that is characterized by compulsive drug use regardless of negative outcomes and sometimes addiction is compared to a mental illness. The clinical term for drug addiction is SUD (substance use disorder).

Addiction to drugs is associated with short-term and long-term complications to physical, mental, and emotional health. Drug abuse and addiction also typically lead to problems developing in personal and professional relationships. Chronic drug addiction can dramatically impair daily functioning.

If you are addicted to drugs and do not seek treatment, your substance use disorder is likely to get worse due to the progressive nature of the condition. Although addiction is incurable, evidence-based addiction treatment typically delivers positive outcomes. That said, addiction, like all chronic conditions, has high relapse rates.

The 8 Signs of Drug Addiction

People who are addicted to drugs may become increasingly secretive, withdrawn, or irritable. They may also experience sudden mood swings, agitation, anxiety, or depression.

Drug addiction can trigger an array of physical symptoms that include sweating, tremors, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.

Those battling substance use disorder may neglect their personal hygiene and grooming and may also experience sudden weight loss or gain.

Drug addiction can be expensive, and those fighting addictions may begin to struggle with financial issues, from unpaid bills to mounting debt.

Drug addiction can lead to criminal behaviors like drug possession or driving under the influence.

Most people who are addicted to drugs experience conflicts and tension in their relationships with friends, family, or coworkers.

Drug addiction often prompts people to engage in risky behaviors like unsafe sex or driving under the influence.

Over time, those who are addicted to drugs may develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning they need increasingly larger doses to achieve the same effects. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using the drug. Both tolerance and withdrawal are diagnostic criteria for addiction.

Examples of Drug Addiction

Drug use and addiction may involve the use of abuse of many substances. Here are some common examples of the different types of drug addiction:

A man sits on a couch with his hand on his head to represent Percocet withdrawal symptoms.

Common Drug Addictions

  • Alcohol: Those with alcoholism (alcohol use disorder) may drink heavily on a regular basis, experience cravings for alcohol, and struggle to control their drinking despite negative consequences.


  • Opioids: Opioid addiction can develop from the use of prescription painkillers or illicit narcotics like heroin and fentanyl. Individuals with opioid addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms that include intense cravings, nausea, and sweating when they discontinue the use of opioids.


  • Stimulants: Stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine can be highly addictive. Ingesting illicit stimulants triggers intense feelings of euphoria, but stimulants can cause tolerance and dependence to develop rapidly. Addiction often but not always follows.


  • Marijuana: While not as addictive as some drugs like heroin and meth, marijuana may still lead to addiction in the form of marijuana use disorder. Marijuana addiction is associated with cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and difficulty controlling use. If you are struggling with marijuana addiction, it can be helpful to learn more about the drug like marijuana withdrawal symptoms, how long marijuana stays in your system, and how to get help.


  • Benzodiazepines: Benzos are prescription drugs commonly indicated for the short-term treatment of anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and sleep disorders, but benzodiazepines can also be highly addictive. Those grappling with benzo addiction may struggle to control their use, experience withdrawal symptoms in the absence of benzos, and continue to use the medication despite mounting negative consequences.


Along with these, some people do struggle with addictions to hallucinogens, such as LSD or mescaline. Regardless of the substance involved, addiction can profound impair your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, as well as your relationships, work, and other aspects of your life.

More Drug Addictions

Addiction drugs can take many forms with drug addicts using many different substances. What’s a drug addict, then?

Here are some common additive drug examples. The following substances often lead to addiction and abuse.

  • Alcohol addiction: Alcohol is the most used addictive substance in the United States, with 213 million U.S. adults reporting consuming alcohol in 2021. Alcohol addiction – informally known as alcoholism and clinically described as alcohol use disorder – often leads to a range of negative consequences, from physical health problems and relationship issues to legal problems and complications with mental health.

  • Opioid addiction: Opioids are a class of drug that includes prescription painkillers and illicit narcotics like heroin and fentanyl. All opioids are highly addictive drugs that can lead to dependence and addiction forming rapidly. Opioid addiction can be especially dangerous as these drugs depress the respiratory system and may lead to life-threatening overdose – of the 107,000 fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2021, opioids were implicated in over 80,000 deaths.

  • Cocaine addiction: Cocaine is a powerful illicit stimulant that provokes feelings of euphoria and increased energy. Regular cocaine use can lead to the development of addiction and a battery of negative health consequences.

  • Meth addiction: Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a highly addictive stimulant drug that can cause significant physical and mental damage over time. Meth addiction can be difficult to treat and is associated with an intense and protracted withdrawal syndrome upon attempting to quit.

  • Marijuana addiction: Marijuana addiction often leads to cravings, irritability in the absence of marijuana, and difficulty sleeping.

  • Benzodiazepine addiction: Benzos are prescription drugs are commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, but they can also be highly addictive. Benzodiazepine addiction can be challenging to overcome, and withdrawal symptoms are often severe, and may include rebound symptoms of panic, anxiety, or insomnia.

Drug Addiction Facts and Statistics

The following drug addiction facts and statistics are sourced from NSDUH 2021, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted each year by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

46.3 Million

over-12s were addicted to drugs or alcohol.


million over-12s were addicted to drugs.

6.9 Million

over-12s were addicted to both drugs and alcohol.

More Statistics on Drug Addiction

Drawing from data in NSDUH’s latest report, the following statistics illustrate the addictiveness of the major drugs of abuse.

Based on the relationship between reported past-year use of the substance and the development of a diagnosable addiction in the same year, these addictive drug examples are ranked from most addictive to least addictive:


    1. 1.1 million U.S. adults reported using heroin in 2021. Among these, over 1 million developed a diagnosable heroin addiction – 91% of past-year users.

    2. 8.7 million U.S. adults reported using prescription painkillers in 2021. Among these, 6.8 million developed a diagnosable prescription painkiller addiction – 78% of past-year users.

    3. 2.5 million U.S. adults reported using meth in 2021. Among these, 1.6 million developed a diagnosable meth addiction – 64% of past-year users.

    4. 9.2 million U.S. adults reported using opioids in 2021. Among these, 5.3 million developed a diagnosable opioid addiction – 58% of past-year users.

    5. 3.9 million U.S. adults reported using benzodiazepines in 2021. Among these, 2 million developed a diagnosable benzodiazepine addiction – 51% of past-year users.

    6. 3.7 million U.S. adults reported using prescription stimulants in 2021. Among these, 1.2 million developed a diagnosable prescription stimulant addiction – 32% of past-year users.

    7. 4.8 million U.S. adults reported using cocaine in 2021. Among these, 1.4 million developed a diagnosable cocaine addiction – 29% of past-year users.

    8. 52.4 million U.S. adults reported using marijuana in 2021. Among these, 15 million developed a diagnosable marijuana addiction – 29% of past-year users.

    9. 213 million U.S. adults reported using alcohol in 2021. Among these, 29.5 million developed a diagnosable alcohol addiction – 14% of past-year users.

    10. 2.2 million U.S. adults reported using inhalants in 2021. Among these, 251,000 developed a diagnosable inhalants addiction – 11% of past-year users.

    11. 7.4 million U.S. adults reported using hallucinogens like PCP, Ecstasy, and LSD in 2021. Among these, 445,000 developed a diagnosable hallucinogen addiction – 6% of past-year users.

Don’t Let Drug Addiction Hold You Back

Recover from Drug Addiction with Gratitude Lodge

Drug Abuse vs. Drug Addiction

Addiction and abuse are related but separate concepts.

Drug abuse refers to the use of drugs in a manner that is harmful or detrimental to your physical or mental health, relationships, or social and occupational functioning. Drugs and addiction, though, is diagnosed as substance use disorder, a chronic brain disorder that is progressive, relapsing, and characterized by compulsive drug use despite adverse outcomes.

In other words, drug abuse is a behavior, while drug addiction is a diagnosable medical condition that results from that behavior. Not everyone who abuses drugs will develop an addiction, but repeated drug abuse increases the risk of developing addiction.

Drug abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Using drugs other than as prescribed by a doctor.
  • Using drugs despite negative legal, social, or financial consequences.
  • Using drugs as a means of coping with emotional or psychological distress – self-medicating.
  • Using drugs as a means of socializing or fitting in with a peer group.


Drug addiction, on the other hand, is characterized by symptoms that include:

  • Compulsive drug use.
  • Inability to control drug use despite negative consequences.
  • Tolerance (needing more of the drug to achieve the same effect).
  • Withdrawal symptoms when drug use is discontinued.
  • Continued drug use despite wanting to quit.
  • While drug abuse and drug addiction are distinct concepts, they are closely related. Repeated drug abuse can lead to changes in the brain that make it more difficult to quit using drugs and increase the likelihood of developing addiction. This means that early intervention for drug abuse is the most effective way to prevent the progression from drug abuse to drug addiction.


What causes addiction to drugs, then?

Causes of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is a complex phenomenon, and there is no one single cause that explains why some people become addicted to drugs while others continue to use substances without addiction developing. Instead, addiction arises from a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors.

  • Genetics: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to addiction, meaning that they are more likely to become addicted to drugs than others. Researchers believe that certain genes are associated with addiction, including those that affect the way the brain responds to drugs and those that regulate dopamine levels.

  • Environmental factors: Environmental factors like stress, trauma, and social influences can also contribute to addiction. Exposure to drugs at a young age, peer pressure, and a lack of parental supervision are just a few examples of environmental factors that can increase your risk profile for addiction.

  • Mental health disorders: Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder can all increase the risk of addiction. Those with mental health issues may use drugs as a way to self-medicate their symptoms. This strategy offers nothing but fleeting relief, worsening the symptoms over time and leading to the development of dual diagnosis (addiction with co-occurring mental health condition).

  • Physical health issues: Chronic pain or other physical health problems can also contribute to addiction. Some people may use drugs to manage their pain or to cope with the emotional distress that accompanies chronic illness.

  • Behavioral factors: Certain behaviors – impulsivity, risk-taking, and sensation-seeking, for instance – may contribute to the development of addiction. Those who engage in these behaviors may be more likely to experiment with drugs and develop an addiction.

Am I a Drug Addict?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you experience intense cravings to use drugs or alcohol, even if you attempt to resist these urges?

  • Do you require more drugs or alcohol to achieve the initial effects due to tolerance building?
  • Do physical or emotional withdrawal symptoms present if you moderate or discontinue the use of drugs?

  • Do you frequently use addictive substances more often than planned, or in larger amounts than intended?

  • Are you neglecting responsibilities at home, school, or work due to the use of drugs or alcohol?

  • do you spend less time with friends and family due to substance abuse?

  • Do you continue to use alcohol or drugs even after experiencing negative consequences lie financial issues, legal problems, or health complications?


If you respond positively to several of these questions, an addiction to drugs or alcohol may be developing.

Drug Addiction Rehab

Drug addiction treatment can be delivered in an inpatient rehab or outpatient setting. Following an initial assessment, detox is the first phase of treatment and addresses the issue of physical dependence. A supervised medical detox may involve medications to streamline the withdrawal process.

Ongoing pharmacological and behavioral interventions allow you to unpack the psychological aspect of addiction at drug or alcohol rehab.

Addictions to alcohol and opioids can be treated with MAT (medication-assisted treatment), both during detox and throughout ongoing treatment. Several FDA-approved medications may reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings during detox. Medications may promote abstinence in recovery when combined with behavioral therapies.

Psychotherapy or talk therapy involves modalities like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), proven effective for treating addictions. Learn how to manage your addiction triggers by implementing healthy coping techniques instead of using addictive substances and pick up skills you can use throughout your sustained recovery from drug addiction.

You may also engage with counseling sessions in an individual and group setting, and participate in a variety of holistic treatments to supplement science-backed therapies. During these sessions you’ll learn to overcome your fears of recovery and learn how to live a sober life. 

woman in rehab meeting | Gratitude Lodge

Orange County Drug Addiction Rehab at Gratitude Lodge

If you are addicted to illicit drugs, prescription medications, or alcohol, we can help you initiate a sustained recovery at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

Kickstart your Orange County rehab journey with our supervised medical detox program and streamline the intensity of drug withdrawal while minimizing the chance of complications or relapse. After drug detox, you can move directly into an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program according to your circumstances and the severity of your substance use disorder.

We offer dual diagnosis treatment programs for those who have a drug addiction co-occurring with a mental health condition like anxiety or depression that enable you to address both conditions simultaneously.

All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs utilize a combination of science-based and holistic therapies that include:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapies
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare


When you are ready to initiate your recovery from drug addiction, call Gratitude Lodge at 888-861-1658.


Our Partners


Drug and alcohol detox should be accessible to everyone. At Gratitude Lodge,
we work with most insurance plans to cover the costs of treatment.

Verify Your Insurance Now

Heal from Drug Abuse and Start Fresh


Drug Addiction FAQs

Yes, drug addiction is recognized as a chronic disease by many medical and scientific organizations due to its effects on the brain and behavior. Drug addiction is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences.

Drug addiction is a chronic and complex brain disorder which can lead to significant physical, emotional, and social problems. It is often accompanied by changes in the brain’s chemistry and structure that can persist even after drug use stops.

A drug addict is a person who has developed a chronic and compulsive pattern of drug seeking and use despite the negative consequences it has on their health, relationships, and other areas of life. This behavior is often fueled by changes in the brain that occur with drug use, which can make it difficult for individuals to control their use of drugs or stop using them altogether once addiction develops.

Common signs of a drug addict include tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, inability to control use, and neglecting personal and professional commitments. Drug addiction is also associated with physical signs like poor personal hygiene standards and changes in appearance.

Data from NSDUH 2021 shows that heroin is the most addictive drug. Of 1.1 million U.S. adults who reported using heroin in 2021, over 1 million developed a diagnosable heroin addictive in the same year. The second most addictive drug according to the same data is meth. Of the 2.5 million U.S. adults who reported using meth in 2021, 1.5 million developed a meth addiction in the same year.

If you are concerned that your loved one may be struggling with addiction, there are several signs and symptoms that you can look for:

  • Changes in behavior: Have you noticed significant changes in your loved one’s behavior, such as increased secrecy, withdrawal from friends and family, or mood swings?
  • Physical symptoms: Have you noticed any physical symptoms, such as changes in appetite, sleep patterns, or weight?
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Have you noticed that your loved one has started to neglect their responsibilities at work, school, or home because of their drug or alcohol use?
  • Financial difficulties: Has your loved one started to experience financial problems because of their drug or alcohol use?
  • Legal problems: Has your loved one experienced any legal problems like arrests, fines, or incarceration, because of their drug or alcohol use?
  • Social isolation: Has your loved one started to withdraw from friends and family, or avoid social situations, because of their drug or alcohol use?
  • Continued use despite negative consequences: Has your loved one continued to use drugs or alcohol even when they’ve experienced negative consequences, such as legal problems, financial difficulties, or health issues?

It can be challenging to determine whether you are struggling with addiction on your own. I, If you are concerned that you may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, though, there are several signs and symptoms that you can watch out for:

  • Cravings: Do you experience strong urges to use drugs or alcohol, even when you try to resist them?
  • Tolerance: Do you need to use more drugs or alcohol to achieve the same effects that you used to experience with smaller amounts?
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Do you experience physical or emotional symptoms when you try to stop using drugs or alcohol – nausea, sweating, tremors, anxiety, or depression, for example?
  • Loss of control: Do you find yourself using drugs or alcohol more often than you intended, or in larger amounts than you planned?
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Have you started to neglect your responsibilities at work, school, or home because of your drug or alcohol use?
  • Social isolation: Have you started to withdraw from friends and family, or avoid social situations, because of your drug or alcohol use?
  • Continued use despite negative consequences: Have you continued to use drugs or alcohol even when you’ve experienced negative consequences, such as legal problems, financial difficulties, or health issues?

icon about us
Living with drug addiction is no way to live at all. The symptoms and effects that can develop as a result of drug addiction can permanently alter the course of the rest of your life. Thankfully, with evidence-based treatment and professional support, this disease is one that can be treated effectively.

If you are struggling with a drug addiction and need help, do not waste any more time. Reach out right now to the drug treatment center at Gratitude Lodge for the help that you desperately need and deserve.