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4 percent of Americans have drug use disorder

November 18, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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A survey funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that about 4 percent of Americans met the criteria for drug use disorder in the past year and about 10 percent have had drug use disorder at some time in their lives.

The findings indicate that more than 23 million adults in the United States have problematic drug use, according to NIAAA, including use of amphetamines, marijuana, club drugs, cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin and other opioids, sedatives/tranquilizers, and solvents/inhalants.

Drug use disorder was more common among men, white and Native American individuals, and those who are single. Younger individuals and those with lower income and education levels were also at risk. Psychiatric disorders, clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder were more prevalent when compared to people without drug use disorder.

More than 36,000 people were evaluated using DSM-5 criteria. Individuals must meet at least two of 11 symptoms to be diagnosed.

Based on the results of the study, NIAAA says the majority of those meeting criteria never receive any form of treatment. About 14 percent of people who had drug use disorder in the past year and about 25 percent of people who had ever had it received care. Even among people with moderate-to-severe drug use, less than 20 percent received treatment.

The authors note that low treatment rates may reflect skepticism about the effectiveness of treatment, as well as insufficient resources, lack of knowledge among health care providers and barriers related to stigma. They note the need to destigmatize drug use disorder and educate the public about recent advances in evidence-based treatment and ways they can access help. 

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