Top 10 Most Commonly Abused Drugs

Thousands of people are abusing drugs every day in the U.S. They are sold illegally on the street, are purchased with a prescription, or bought legally such as alcohol, tobacco products and in some states, marijuana. Below is a list of the 10 most commonly abused drugs in America:

  1. Alcohol

    Alcohol is the most abused drug in the United States and over one-half of the population drinks alcohol. Currently about 87 million Americans binge drink or drink heavily and about 9.3 million drinkers are between the ages of 12 to 20 years old.

    Alcohol interrupts the brain?s neurotransmission and causes changes to brain structure. It can also cause cardio myopathy, arrhythmias, stroke and high blood pressure. Prolonged heavy drinking can cause liver and pancreas disease, and cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and breast.


  3. Tobacco

    There are approximately 70 million Americans currently using tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff and chewing tobacco. Smoking tobacco causes over 480,000 premature deaths each year in the U.S. An additional 16 million people suffer from serious illnesses caused by smoking tobacco. Secondhand smoke also causes disease in non-smokers who are constantly exposed to it.

    Nicotine, a chemical found in tobacco, increases dopamine levels in the brain causing craving and addiction. Continued use of tobacco can cause cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat and esophagus. Other diseases include vascular disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, COPD, heart attack, stroke and aneurysm.


  5. Marijuana
    There are approximately 19 million people currently using marijuana in the U.S. and it is the most popular drug among high school teenagers. Marijuana use impairs short-term memory development and it distorts perception and judgment. It also has a negative affect on young, developing brain systems. THC is the main, active chemical in marijuana and high levels of it cause addiction to the drug.

  7. Painkillers
    Prescription painkiller medications are used non-medically by approximately 2.4 million Americans. Some popular painkillers are Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin. Addiction will cause a person?s normal behavior to change and there may be a shift in energy, mood and focus. ?Painkillers can have negative effects on the physical body causing heightened sensitivity to sound and light, hallucinations, blackouts and problems with the lungs, central nervous system, stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys, heart and death from overdose.

  9. RX Sedatives
    The most common sedatives are benzodiazepines and tranquilizers. Approximately 2.4 million people in the U.S. are using sedatives for non-medical purposes. These are highly addictive and can cause memory loss, poor motor coordination, paranoia, stupor, suicidal thoughts, aggression, respiratory depression and coma. Mixing sedatives with alcohol is very dangerous and can cause death.

  11. Cocaine
    There are approximately 1.1 million people currently dependant on cocaine in the U.S. with about 1,800 new users per day. Long-term effects of cocaine include hyper-stimulation, bizarre behavior, hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, depression, panic, psychosis, convulsions, seizures and sudden death from high doses. Cocaine that is sold on the street is usually cut with other substances and this fact adds to the risk of serious health complications and death. Cocaine accounts for more emergency room visits than any other illegal drug.

  13. RX Stimulants
    Prescription stimulant drugs have a high addictive rate and about 1.2 million Americans are currently taking RX stimulants for non-medical purposes. RX stimulants are usually prescribed for people who have narcolepsy or ADHD. These drugs increase the level of dopamine in the brain causing feelings of euphoria. Abuse of stimulants can cause heart attacks, strokes, depression, malnutrition, hostility and paranoia. Because stimulants increase energy and focus, teenagers are abusing the drug because they believe it will enhance their learning and test scores.

  15. Hallucinogens
    Approximately 1.1 million people are currently taking hallucinogens in the U.S. Hallucinogenic drugs are known as PCP, mescaline, Ecstasy, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. These drugs cause hallucinations and profoundly affect the perception of reality. Some negative effects of using hallucinogenic drugs are delusions, paranoia, panic, terror, despair, psychosis, and psychological illness. Flashbacks from some of these drugs may occur at anytime after using the drug.

  17. Heroin
    Heroin is known as the most powerful and addictive drug in the world and its use is increasing in the U.S. Heroin induces euphoria by binding to the opioid receptors that control consciousness, breathing and blood pressure. Long-term effects of using heroin include collapsed veins, partial paralysis, memory loss, intellectual impairment, and disease of the heart, liver and kidneys. Heroin is often diluted with other substances creating a high risk of physical complications and death.

  19. Methamphetamines
    Methamphetamines are very popular among young adults and many in the U.S. are taking them for non-medical purposes. These drugs are dangerous and can cause delusions, paranoia, aggression, depression, learning impairment and psychosis. Methamphetamines are highly addictive and toxic to the brain and central nervous system. These drugs can also cause permanent damage to the brain and body.


Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that changes the brain?s structure and functions in addition to causing all types of illness, disease, coma and death. Americans are paying more than $700 billion per year on medical costs, crime and lost productivity. It affects every strata of U.S. society and the knowledge of its ills should be a top priority in the education of every American.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.