Drug abuse and addiction is a problem that many countries are trying to resolve. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 255 million people used drugs like opioids, cocaine, cannabis, and amphetamines in 2015 alone. That means that the annual prevalence of illegal drug use is 5.3%. That being said, it is impossible to go to a country where there is no drug addiction. The good news is, no matter who you are or where you are in the world, you have the option to recover. Today, we’re going to talk about drug use trends in the Americas. 

North America

In the United States, the problem of drug addiction has crossed generations, demographics, and gender. Whether it be heroin, synthetic drugs, prescribed medications, or marijuana, North America has reached its peak with their drug addiction problem. With all the information about the consequences of drug abuse and addiction, you would think that this problem would have been resolved by now, but why is it still going in the opposite direction? 

The Statistics on Drug Abuse in North America

Determining the exact scope of drug use and abuse in the United States is nearly impossible. This is due to the fact that drugs are illegal and people are not exactly open to talking about their drug habits. However, surveys and studies suggested that American drug use is extremely high and could even be part of their history. That being said, here are some interesting facts on drug use and abuse in North America:

  1. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, children ages 12 and older have battled substance use disorder in 2017. That is 19.7 million American adults on the list. 
  2. 38% of Americans battled illicit drug use disorder in 2017 alone. 
  3. One out of 8 adults in 2017 struggled with alcohol and drug use disorder simultaneously. 
  4. Drug addiction and abuse cost Americans $740 billion dollars in loss due to health care expenses, crime-related costs, and lost workplace productivity. 
  5. 8.5 million American adults suffer from mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, and co-occurring disorders due to drug addiction in 2017 alone.  
  6. 88,000 people in America die from alcohol-related deaths each year. 
  7. About 15 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder and only 7% of them receive treatment. 
  8. American men aging 18 to 25 are most likely to binge drink and become alcoholics in the future. 
  9. In 2018, 18% of 10th graders and 30% of 12th graders admitted to underage drinking compared to 25% of them in 2013.
  10. The total sale of opioid painkillers has skyrocketed by 300% since 1999 and is still growing in the US.
  11. In 2017, over 15,000 Americans have died due to heroin overdose.
  12. About 40 million people in the United States use marijuana each year. 
  13. About 2% of 12 graders have admitted to trying hallucinogens in 2018. 
  14. 23 million Americans have admitted to trying inhalants at least once in their lives. 
  15. 556,000 Americans are regular inhalant users. 
  16. The number of deaths related to meth has tripled from 2011 to 2016.
  17. About 10,000 Americans suffered an overdose to meth in 2017. 
  18. 5 million Americans are regular cocaine users. 

Who Uses More Drugs in America?


There are some specific groups that have been seen to have significant increases in their drug consumption over the last decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, the gaps in heroin use between men and women have narrowed over the past years. From 2003 to 2013, the rate of women using heroin has increased by 100%. On the other hand, drug use has decreased the annual income of households making $50,000 to 60% because of this.

According to studies conducted by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, women are the fastest-growing demographic of drug and alcohol abusers in the United States. Among this number, girls ages 12 to 17 who use non-medical prescription painkillers, meth, alcohol, and other illicit drugs are now a match with boys of the same group and can even exceed at some points. Another study showed that among the 6.5 million Americans who misuse and abuse prescription drugs in 2013 were also females. 

Older Generations

Another surprising demographic of Americans using more drugs than any other are adults who are over the age of 50. This group, which includes adults who were born in 1946 to 1964 are among the individuals who resumed their use of drugs as a result of having fewer familial and professional responsibilities. Least we forget that this is also the generation who were once obsessed with drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll. 

The number of adults belonging in this age group who have been arrested for drug offenses and died of overdose has increased over the last decade. In fact, death by accidental overdose has increased by 11 folds since 1990. In 2013 alone, it has been reported that 12,000 baby boomers died due to drug overdose alone. Because of this, the CDC estimated that about 5.7 million people over 50 will be needing addiction treatment by 2020 or so. 

People with Money

According to history, poorer demographics are viewed as one of the reasons why drug use and abuse happen, but according to recent studies conducted in 2007, it has been found out that wealthy people (based on responses from participants in Contra Costa and Alameda counties) are most likely to use drugs than those from poor communities. They cited that this may be due to disposable income, absentee parents, and pressure to succeed as contributing factors. In a study done in 2012, it was determined that young adults with high socioeconomic status were likely to abuse alcohol and marijuana compared to their poorer peers. 

South America

Latin America has reached its epidemic peak in terms of drug abuse and addiction. What’s even worse is that it continues to rise and expand in all areas of the country. While statistics vary in each country, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission has reported that marijuana use and binge drinking are among the main problems in Latin America. Not only that, the growing number of illicit drug abuse is also visible in this country. Here are some interesting facts that you need to know:

  1. Inhalant abuse is very common among young teens in Latin America that 9.95% of secondary schools in Brazil in 2011. 
  2. About 5% of the population suffers from depression.
  3. Marijuana is mainly used in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador.
  4. 7.5 million people ages 15 to 64 years old used marijuana at least once in their life in the reports gathered in 2008. 
  5.  Alcohol abuse is very common in Latin America. 
  6. 50% of the Chilean population and 47% of people in Argentina admit to alcohol use. 
  7. 80% of the people in Ecuador and Uruguay are alcohol users for a lifetime. 
  8. 35% under age of 15 in Brazil consume alcohol each month while 38% of this age group in Columbia. 
  9. According to the World Health Organization, 246,000 people have died due to alcohol in Latin America. 
  10. Cocaine is very popular in South America; 27% of all cocaine consumed in North America is produced in this country. 
  11. About 3.5% of the population in Uruguay uses cocaine while 1.4% of the population in Peru uses both crack and cocaine paste. 
  12. Cocaine paste is very popular among teenagers and young adults.

Effects of Drug Use in Latin America

Among the many health risks of drug users in the country, AIDS and HIV are the most common. It is estimated that 721,000 people use drug injections in the Caribbean and Latin America. It is also because of this that their chances of contracting HIV have increased and has affected nearly 2.1 million people in these areas. This goes the same as contacting viral hepatitis. According to Harm Reduction International, the viral forms of hepatitis affects only 1% of South American population on average but because of drug use, there is a chance that this could increase. In Mexico, it is reported that 98% of the population who injected drugs already have Hepatitis C antibody. 

Besides the risk of contacting diseases, the use of drugs in this country has already affected the mental health of the general population. Drug abuse and addiction eliminate the quality of life of these people and has caused problems within their familial relationships. Financial troubles and troubles with the law are also very common in this country. 

According to studies, at least 5% of people in South America suffer and struggle with depression while 3.4% of them suffer from anxiety disorders and the remaining suffer from other mental health problems like OCD, face-panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and etc. Any of these can overlap their substance abuse however, 6 out of 10 Latin American people receive the needed treatment for their mental health disorders and addictions. 

Fortunately, there is now progress in this situation. Chile offers its people supervised rehabilitation for some offenders even if they are in jail. Ecuador on the other hand outlines the number of drugs that can be carried for transport so those who carry small amounts of illicit substances will not be charged the same with those who traffic larger contents. In Brazil, changes are also made for rehabilitation shelters for people instead of sending them into prison while the citizens of Colombia are free to carry cannabis or cocaine in small amounts without the fear of getting persecuted for it. The changes may be small but for these countries, these changes could mean a lot in terms of resolving drug abuse and addiction that is crippling their economy and people. 

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.