Drug Addiction: The Five Most Common Substances Abused

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Serenity at Summit, with New Jersey & Massachusetts drug addiction treatment centers, discusses the top 5 most common addictions in the U.S.

Addiction comes in all shapes and sizes. Furthermore, a drug addiction doesn’t have to feature an illegal substance to cause serious health problems or disruptions in a person’s life.

If you struggle with addiction, it may be helpful to know that you are by no means alone. Although addiction can often make a person feel isolated, knowing that others experience the same issue can be a source of comfort.

Here are the top five most common addictions among the American population.


Nicotine is by far the most common addictive substance in the country, with over 40 million smokers in the U.S.

Because tobacco is legal, it’s obviously easy to acquire, and its status as a social activity tends to make people overlook its negative health effects. The health problems it causes can also take years to develop, which means users don’t always immediately notice the side effects of smoking or using chewing tobacco.


Alcohol use disorder affects about 17 million adults in the United States. Men are more likely to abuse alcohol than women, with 11.2 million men suffering alcohol addiction compared to 5.7 million women.

Even more troubling, approximately 855,000 adolescents have been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.


Because marijuana has been legalized for medical use and even recreational use in some states, it’s often easy to overlook its addictive properties. Like other substances, marijuana can cause dependence. Even a seemingly innocuous substance like caffeine can cause health problems if consumed too often—even leading to addiction in some people. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are about 4.2 million people who qualify as having a marijuana addiction.

Prescription Painkillers

Opioids top the list of the most problematic painkillers when it comes to addiction. About 1.8 million Americans are addicted to drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin. These drugs work on the brain in much the same way as illegal drugs, altering the chemicals in the brain’s receptors. Over time, users may not even be aware of their addiction until they attempt to stop taking the drug.


Cocaine dominated headlines in the 1980s and was often touted as the most addictive street drug in the country. Although cocaine use has decreased in recent decades, there are still approximately 821,000 regular cocaine users in the U.S.

Help Is Available. Get Answers Today

If you are struggling with addiction, there are individualized treatment options available to assist you. Call Serenity at Summit today to find out how we can help you begin a path toward lasting recovery. You can learn more about what we treat by exploring the resources on our website.

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