Man withdrawing sitting in shower fully clothed - Most abused drugs

The Top 3 Most Commonly Used And Abused Drugs

Last Updated: Sep 14th 2022

Reviewed by North Jersey Recovery Center

As many of you are aware, there are countless drugs in existence-some that are capable of curing deadly diseases, a few others that incite certain sensations, and others that could cause dire ramifications for your health. All drugs that are widely available may vary on their ingredients and purposes, but most of them have one thing in common: They have the potential to be abused and cause dependence. Knowing the risks of the popular substances we are about to cover can help you protect yourself and make sound decisions in relation to drug and alcohol use. Throughout this blog series, our drug and alcohol interventionists in Passaic County NJ have continually educated our patients on the dangers of substance use and abuse. For today’s topic, let’s take a look at the top 3 most commonly used and abused drugs. 

The Scope Of Drug Abuse In The US

New chemical substances have led to slight deviations in annual substance use trends, rates of addiction throughout the US have remained somewhat consistent for the last decade. Rates of opioid use continue to soar, and as a direct result the rates of opioid overdose have also been on the ride. The CDC reported that there were an estimated 93,331 drug overdose deaths in the US during 2020, an increase of 29.4% from the 72,151 deaths predicted in 2019. Apart from the rising rates of drug overdose in America, rates of alcohol addiction have been on the rise.  The National Institute For Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism states that 14.5 million people over age 12 suffer from a diagnosable alcohol use disorder. These are pretty harrowing statistics, but the fight to combat them has not wavered. Our drug and alcohol interventionists in Passaic County NJ will always help those who are succumbing to their addictions and dependencies.

Which 3 Drugs Are The Most Frequently Used?

As it stands currently, the 3 most abused drugs in the US are cannabis, alcohol, and prescription painkillers. These substances, listed below, each have their own specific effects and potential risks. 

#1- Alcohol

Alcohol is undisputedly the most popular drug in the United States. It’s legal for people 21 and over and is easily accessible at most restaurants and dining establishments. Common side effects of excessive alcohol consumption include impaired motor skills, slurred speech, lowered inhibitions and much more. In order for someone to be classified as a heavy drinker, they must be drinking more than 2-3 standard drinks a day for a man, and more than 1-2 standard drinks for a woman. Heavy drinking can eventually cause conditions like pancreatitis, liver disease, and even heart disease. Based on findings from the National Institute On Drug Abuse, there are currently about 14 million people in the US with an alcohol abuse problem or addiction.

Preventing alcohol abuse starts young. Take, for instance, North Carolina. The state has a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking. Despite this initiative to curb abuse, the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the North Carolina Department Of Public Instruction found that by middle school, 20.4% of students had already tried alcohol. By the time they reached high school, 24.2% of North Carolina students were actively drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, studies have continually shown that young people who start drinking early are more than likely to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol as adults.

Overindulging in alcohol consumption can damage the brain and most bodily organs, even more so in young people. Areas of the brain that are most vulnerable to alcohol-related damage are the cerebral cortex (which is responsible for our higher brain functions, including problem-solving and decision-making). The hippocampus, (responsible for memory and learning) and the cerebellum (pivotal for movement coordination).

Food for thought:

  • Misuse: 65 million people participated in binge-drinking prior to the NSDUH report. In addition to this, 16 million people reported heavy alcohol use.
  • Alcohol Use Disorder: 14.5 million people dealt with alcohol dependence or abuse.

#2- Marijuana

Marijuana is a mixture of dried and shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the cannabis plant. It’s intended for use as a psychoactive drug and as medicine. The intoxicating effect of marijuana comes from the amount of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) content found in the drug. Common street names for marijuana include “pot”, “grass”, “herb”, “weed”, “Mary Jane”, “reefer”, “skunk”, “boom”, “gangster”, “kif”, “chronic”, and “ganja”. Marijuana may be decriminalized in many states, including North Carolina, but this does not make it legal. Even if you are in possession of half an ounce of marijuana, it’s still considered a class 3 misdemeanor that can result in a fine and mark on your permanent record. Possessing more than 1.5 oz is a felony. Additionally, since there are no safe parameters to purchase marijuana in many states, it may be laced with other, more addictive substances.

  • Misuse: 12 million people used marijuana in 2019
  • Marijuana Use Disorder: 4.8 million people (a ⅓ of all marijuana users) met the criteria for dependence or abuse.

#3- Pain Relievers

Prescription drugs remain the #1 most abused drug in this category. Whether it’s obtained from a friend or family member or is prescribed by your doctor, people often misuse or abuse pain relievers. Some commonly abused pain relievers include morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone. With that said, there are many people who are taking pain relievers prescribed by their doctors, correctly and safely. Not everyone who takes a pain reliever will become addicted; it’s all contingent on your own personal risk for addiction. 

  • Misuse: 9.7 million people were misusing painkillers in 2019.
  • This number has decreased in recent years, from 12.5 million in 2015.
  • Prescription Pain Reliever Use Disorder: 1.4 million of those abusing prescription pain relievers (14%) met the criteria for a prescription pain reliever use disorder.
  • This number has also decreased from 2 million in 2015.

Don’t Become The Victim Of Another Statistic: Fight Drug And Alcohol Abuse With Our Drug And Alcohol Interventionists In Passaic County NJ

Our treatment options at North Jersey Recovery Center will include counseling, support groups, medication, and other alternatives to help you combat your addiction. To learn more about what our drug and alcohol interventionists in Passaic County NJ have to offer, contact us today!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by North Jersey Recovery Center

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