The Sober Living AZ Blog

Is Substance Abuse Increasing or Decreasing?

Posted on 05/20/20: Addiction Treatment

Most of us have heard of the drug abuse epidemic in this country and across the world. People are working towards providing better education on the matter in an effort to keep prevent it from increasing in the hope of decreasing it. There have been efforts in the past, but they were not always so successful. Campaigns like D.A.R.E. or even the “War on Drugs” were just a few of the major efforts to stop substance abuse around the United States of America. Were these movements successful in their efforts? In hindsight, not exactly. The “War on Drugs” led to many unforeseen consequences that rocked not only the U.S. but the world as well. The D.A.R.E. was also another anti-drug use movement that actually had a boomerang effect on the youth of America. Studies show the campaign actually had the opposite effect on kids, it essentially pushed them into trying drugs. 

Since these campaigns, we’ve learned from our mistakes and adopted healthier practices and ideologies in the anti-drug movement. So this begs the question: since we’ve learned from our mistakes, is substance abuse increasing or decreasing?

So does that mean it is increasing or decreasing?

Is substance abuse increasing or decreasing? It’s not a very simple question to answer, but we can do our best to analyze the trends, facts, and statistics to determine what exactly is going on with substance abuse in this world. When it comes to drug trends, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration. Which substances are being abused, how many are abusing each individual drug, which demographics are abusing them (age, sex, race, etc.), and then overdose rates. Let’s take a look at the most significant facts from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • More than 50% of illicit drug users start off by using marijuana.
  • The second most abused illicit substance is prescription medications. 
  • Teenagers are the most vulnerable demographics to experiment with substance abuse.
  • Alcohol is the most abused substance behind marijuana.
  • Alarmingly, there is only a small percentage of people who actively seek treatment for their addictions. 
  • According to research, marijuana abuse is on the rise. Since 2007, the percentage of marijuana abuse has increased by 1.7%. A total of 19.8 million people across the U.S. have shown signs of marijuana addiction, compared to 14.5 million in 2007. The increase in marijuana abuse could be due to the legalization of the substance in various states across the nation.
  • Many people believe marijuana is harmless, but this could not be further from the truth. Marijuana can be labeled a “gateway drug” since a good portion of users wind up getting addicted to other substances. The drug can have harmful long-term consequences like the development of anxiety/depression from the lack of dopamine production in the brain (which is caused by marijuana consumption). 
  • Studies have shown that illicit substance abuse has increased over the last few decades. In 2002, the percentage of Americans that were actively abusing illicit substances was 8.2%. That number has now increased to over 9.3%. NIDA does say this increase could be due to the increase in marijuana use. However, statistics also show us that the numbers of most types of drug abuse are decreasing or remaining stable. 
  • There are collectively more than 7.8 million Americans that are actively abusing prescription drugs or hallucinogenics, but these are actually decreased numbers compared to ones from the past.
  • As we mentioned, there has been an overall decrease in many other substances that are abused. Cocaine use has decreased from 2.4 million to 1.5 active users, as of 2013. 
  • The illegal use of methamphetamine has increased over the last few decades, but trends related to alcohol abuse have decreased, despite it being one of the most commonly abused substances out there. There has been an overall decrease in binge drinking and accidents related to alcohol abuse.
  • Though there has been significant decreases in other drug abuses, there has been a sharp increase in use of one particular substance: heroin. Heroin is one of the cheapest and most readily available illicit substances out there, so it is no wonder this trend has come about. This increase in heroin use could likely be due to other addictions like prescription medication addiction. Prescribed medications are powerful but only used for medical purposes. If a person gets addicted to these medications and can no longer get their prescription, they may more likely to seek alternative methods for medication. 

Taking a look at these staggering facts, trends, and statistics, it’s clear to see that substance abuse is increasing in ways, but it is decreasing in some areas as well. Though we have developed a better strategy with substance abuse education and we have more readily available resources for these people, the stigma that surrounds addiction is still present and not easy to break. On top of that, new drug trends seem to pop up every few years which causes setbacks in proper addiction recovery movements. 

As we mentioned before, the percentage of people who actually seek treatment for their addictions is alarmingly low. This could very well be due to the fact that past programs have made addiction seem like a choice. This is not necessarily true! Though the initial decision to use a substance may seem like a choice, there are countless factors to take into consideration. A person’s biology, family history, environment, friends, etc. can all have a significant impact on whether or not a person chooses to use substances. It is essential for us to work together to break the stigma that addiction is a choice … it is not a choice, it is a disease. Let’s work together to stop the increasing numbers of substance abusers so we can create a better future for the next generation of Americans. We can learn from our past mistakes and create a world where addiction is treated properly. 


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

Content for Scottsdale Recovery Center and Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media

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