Most Used Drugs in America

a person talks to a therapist about the most used drugs in america

It’s no secret that drug use continues to be a major problem in the United States, especially with the increasing rates of illicit fentanyl. In 2021, the most used drugs in America, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), were topped by alcohol and marijuana.1 Other classes of drugs were also heavily reported among individuals aged 12 and over.

Northpoint Washington offers comprehensive residential treatment for individuals living with addiction. Our recovery program is designed to meet the needs of patients, helping them develop a plan for long-term sobriety. Treatment takes into account both physiological and psychological aspects of addiction, focusing on changing attitudes and behaviors that contribute to drug use. Start a substance abuse treatment program today by calling 888.450.2153.

The Most Popular Drugs in America

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) administers the NSDUH regularly. According to the 2021 report’s key substance use and mental health indicators, the most used substances include:

  • Marijuana – 52.5 million people
  • Prescription pain reliever misuse – 8.7 million people
  • Hallucinogens – 7.4 million people
  • Prescription tranquilizer or sedative misuse – 4.9 million people
  • Cocaine – 4.8 million people
  • Prescription stimulant misuse – 3.7 million people
  • Methamphetamine – 2.5 million people
  • Inhalants – 2.2 million people
  • Heroin – 1.1 million people

Prescription drugs continue to be a major problem, as they are easily accessible and can lead to addiction. However, illicit drug use is also a major portion of American drug use.

Most Used Drugs: Marijuana

Marijuana remains one of the most used drugs in America, with 52.5 million people reporting use in the 2021 report. The drug can be smoked or ingested in edible forms, and individuals are usually looking for a feeling of relaxation after using it. However, marijuana has been linked to long-term mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

One reason marijuana is one of the most popular substances is the continuing leniency of many states on marijuana use. Many states now have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana, making it easier to obtain and use the drug. Marijuana addiction treatment can involve both inpatient and outpatient therapy, depending on the severity of the individual’s addiction.

Top Used Drugs: Cocaine

Cocaine is another illicit substance that is heavily used in the United States. The NSDUH reported 4.8 million people using cocaine. The drug is usually snorted, injected, or smoked in order to get a feeling of intense energy and increased alertness after use.

Cocaine can cause serious health problems such as heart attacks, seizures, and strokes. Long-term use can also lead to depression, paranoia, hallucinations, and difficulty sleeping. It is important for people who are using cocaine to seek professional cocaine addiction treatment as soon as possible in order to avoid serious health risks.

Most Popular Prescription Drugs of Misuse

Several classes of prescription drugs are commonly misused in the United States, including pain relievers, tranquilizers or sedatives, and stimulants. These medications are intended to treat various medical conditions but can easily become addictive when abused. Millions of Americans struggle with prescription drug addiction, as these drugs can be obtained from both valid and illegitimate sources.

It is important to remember that prescription medications should only be used under the guidance of a licensed healthcare professional. Misusing or abusing any type of medication can have serious consequences, not only in terms of physical health but also for emotional well-being. Seeking prescription drug rehab can be a great way to start the journey toward recovery.

Hallucinogens Are Reported as One of the Top Used Drugs

Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause intense distortions in perception, usually leading to hallucinations. As reported by the NSDUH, 7.4 million people used hallucinogens in 2021.

Like marijuana, many states are changing their legal stance on hallucinogens, including psilocybin and MDMA. While legal in some states, it is important to note that these drugs are still very dangerous. Hallucinogens can cause serious mental health problems when taken in high doses or used frequently over time.

Meth, Heroin, and Inhalants Round Out the Most Used Drugs

In addition to the substances mentioned above, methamphetamine, heroin, and inhalants also make up a portion of the most used drugs in America. These drugs are especially dangerous, as their use can lead to serious health problems and even death.

It is important for individuals who are struggling with addiction to seek help from qualified professionals in order to get back on track with a healthy lifestyle. Addiction treatment centers such as Northpoint Washington offer comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs that focus on changing attitudes and behaviors related to drug use.

Fentanyl Is a Major Danger

All of the most used drugs in America listed above can be dangerous, but fentanyl is especially concerning. The drug is a synthetic opioid that can be legally prescribed by doctors or illegally obtained. Fentanyl use has skyrocketed in recent years, and it now accounts for a large portion of overdose deaths in America.

The presence of fentanyl in the illicit drug market poses an additional risk to individuals who use drugs of any kind. Dealers and illicit manufacturers often cut other drugs with fentanyl, increasing the risk of overdose or death. It is important for anyone using illicit drugs to be aware of the danger posed by fentanyl and find drug addiction treatment.

Call Northpoint Washington to Start Recovery

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use, it’s important to seek treatment. Northpoint Washington offers comprehensive residential treatment for individuals living with addiction. Our team of experts is dedicated to helping patients achieve long-term sobriety through evidence-based treatment and therapy. Contact us today at 888.450.2153 to start your journey toward recovery.


  1. SAMHSA – Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health