10% of Americans Have a Serious Drug Problem, But They Aren’t Getting Help

One in 10 American adults — or 23 million people —has had a serious drug problem at some time in their life, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health. And right now, 4% of Americans are struggling with a drug use disorder.

What’s truly alarming is that the vast majority of people with drug use disorder never receive any form of treatment. The study found that only about 14% of people who had drug use disorder in the past year received care. And a mere 1 in 7 of those currently suffering is in treatment.

Treatment rates for alcohol use disorder are similarly low. An NIAA study released earlier this year found that nearly one-third of adults in the United States have alcohol use disorder at some time in their lives, but only about 20% receive treatment.

It’s important to understand that people with drug use disorder were significantly more likely to have a broad range of mental health issues. The study found they were 1.3 times as likely to experience clinical depression, 1.6 times as likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder, and 1.8 times as likely to have borderline personality disorder, when compared to people without drug use disorder. Drug use disorder was also linked to a three-fold increase in both alcohol and nicotine use disorder.

“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,” said George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in a statement.

Experts have noted that low treatment rates may reflect barriers related to stigma, skepticism about the effectiveness of treatment, and insufficient resources. But these low rates also put a well-needed spotlight on the lack of knowledge among health care providers. As Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, points out, “The prevalence and complexity of drug use disorders revealed in this study coupled with the lack of treatment speak to the urgent need for health care professionals to be trained in proper techniques to identify, assess, diagnose, and treat substance use disorders among patients in their practice.”

If you or someone you know may be struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, there is help. The clinical staff at Meta House is trained to tailor a treatment plan that will help you reclaim your life and successfully navigate the road to long-term recovery.