Top Ten Most Abused Drugs in the United States

The cost of substance abuse in the United States is estimated to exceed more than $600 billion in lost work, crime, productivity, and healthcare. Unfortunately over half of all people in the United States consume some sort of drug whether it be legal or illegal. Here are the top ten most abused drugs in the United States:



Derived from the resin of poppy plants, heroin, is a highly addictive, powerful form of opiate. Most commonly heroin is injected, but it can also be smoked or sniffed. Upon usage, people feel a sensation of a euphoric rush and the loss of social inhibition. Long-term effects of heroin usage are varying and many. Some of the most common effects include pneumonia, collapsed veins, decreased liver function, abscesses in the body, and infection of the heart valves and lining. This doesn’t even include the dangers people subject themselves to when sharing needles and engaging in other risky behavior while under the influence of the drug.



Methamphetamines include various drugs such as crystal meth, speed, and crack. Methamphetamines produce feelings of euphoria, well-being, and produce intense bursts of energy often lasting anywhere between 4 to 16 hours. As a result of the bursts of energy provided by methamphetamines, it is a popular drug at night clubs. Unfortunately methamphetamines are one of the most addictive and damaging drugs out there. The drug works by reacting and burning up the body’s energy resources and creates a dependence that can only be satisfied by consuming more of the drug. Even short-term effects include tooth loss, abscesses, permanent brain damage, and impaired judgement.




Hallucinogens makes up a large category of drugs including PCP, mushrooms, Ketamine, and LSD. By far, LSD is the most commonly abused of these drugs. On the street LSD is typically referred to, simply, as acid. LSD is also one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. The effects of most hallucinogens are widely unpredictable. Hallucinogens can alter a person’s entire perception of reality including their mood, personality, and sensations, possibly permanently.



Ecstasy, also known as MDMA is currently one of the most popular drugs among the youth of America. It is typically associated with the “club scene” and can usually be easily obtained at most night clubs, raves, and concerts. Users experience immense feelings of euphoria, alertness, mild hallucinations, and feelings of intimacy with others. One of the main issues confronted by ecstasy users is nearly 65% of all pills distributed today contain other substances making the effects very dangerous and unpredictable. Long-term users of ecstasy experience long-lasting confusion, depression, sleep problems, and problems with attention and memory. The problems are intensified when the user combines ecstasy with other drugs, especially marijuana.



Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, inhalants are the sixth most commonly abused drug in the United States. Inhalants are defined as vapors from toxic substances that are capable of producing a euphoric high. The reason why researchers believe inhalant usage is so high is because of its easy availability. Most commonly abusers of inhalants utilize common everyday household products to achieve their desired end. The most commonly used products include shoe polish, glue, gasoline, spray paint, cleaning fluid, and nitrous oxide. Users experience an initial high followed by loss of inhibition and drowsiness.




Well over 1 million Americans are current users on the white powder known as cocaine. Due to its short lived, but extremely powerful effects, cocaine users quickly develop severe psychological dependence and strong drug cravings which can be difficult to control. The other main problem with cocaine is users quickly develop a tolerance to the drug. Long-term use of cocaine is absolutely devastating to the body. It can cause severe heart problems on top of impaired judgement and inability to function normally.


Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug abuse was not much of an issue until the last decade and a half. Some people acquire the drug legally, while others purchase it illegally. No matter how it is obtained, if dependency on the drug is established, the effects are the same. Painkillers, specifically Vicodin and OxyContin are the most abused types of prescription drugs. The majority of painkillers are derived from Opiate and produce effects similar to that of heroin.



Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the United States. Although the health implications of marijuana are not as severe as many of the other drugs on this list, the main problem with marijuana is it acts as a gateway drug. Users of the majority of the other drugs on the list first start out with marijuana. The effects of marijuana include distorted perception, impaired coordination, memory and learning impairment, and possibly respiratory issues. The active chemical in marijuana is Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to simply as THC. THC is the chemical responsible for the “high” sensation.



Close to one out of four Americans are users of some form of tobacco. Tobacco can be actualized in a number of different forms including, but not limited to, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, hookah, cigars, and pipe tobacco. In terms of total number of deaths, tobacco is the most lethal drug in the United States. Nearly one out of two people who use tobacco will ultimately die from its usage. Some of the common health problems associated with tobacco usage include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and various forms of cancer. The chemicals in tobacco stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain and create a sense of euphoria.



More than half of all Americans drink alcohol on a regular basis, making alcohol the number one most abused drug in the United States today. The fact it is legal and easy to obtain for all citizens above the age of 21 contribute to its prevalence. Almost a quarter of the United States population participates in some form of binge drinking on a regular basis and more than five percent who admit to heavy drinking almost daily. Alcohol has a number of health effects. As a depressant, while under the influence alcohol produces slurred speech, impaired coordination and judgement, and in extreme cases blackouts.


Drugs are an awful thing and not only affects the lives of users, but also those around them. If you are suffering a drug addiction, seek help today. It’s not too late.


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