Study: 10 percent of adults have had drug use disorder

A new survey of American adults revealed that about 10 percent have had a drug use disorder at some point in their lives.

The study – funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is part of the National Institutes of Health – also found that about 4 percent of Americans met the criteria for drug use disorder in the past year, according to a NIH news release.

“Based on these findings, more than 23 million adults in the United States have struggled with problematic drug use,” said George F. Koob, the NIAAA director, in the news release. “Given these numbers, and other recent findings about the prevalence and under-treatment of alcohol use disorder in the U.S., it is vitally important that we continue our efforts to understand the underlying causes of drug and alcohol addiction, their relationship to other psychiatric conditions and the most effective forms of treatment.”

The diagnosis of drug use disorder is based on a list of symptoms, including craving, withdrawal, lack of control and negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities.

People with at least two of the 11 identified symptoms are diagnosed with a drug use disorder. The disorder is also rated by severity (mild, moderate and severe) depending on the number of symptoms, according to the release.

The study looked at problematic use of amphetamines, marijuana, club drugs (ecstasy, ketamine, methamphetamine), cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, non-heroin opioids (oxycodone, morphine), sedatives/tranquilizers and solvents/inhalants.

The study found that drug use disorder was more common among men, white and Native American people and those who are single or no longer married.

Younger people and those with lower income and education levels were also at greater risk. In addition, those living in the 13 western-most states were more likely to have a drug use disorder in their lives, according to the study.

The research also showed that people with drug use disorder were significantly more likely to have a broad range of psychiatric disorders, such as mood, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and personality disorders.

Those with drug use disorder were also found to be 1.3 times more likely to experience clinical depression, 1.6 times more likely to have PTSD and 1.8 times more likely to have borderline personality disorder than those without the disorder, according to the study.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

Scroll to top