Even after decades of anti-drug campaigns in the United States, millions of Americans still misuse drugs. Some substances like alcohol are perfectly legal but hazardous to your health if you consume them in large quantities. Other substances are legal in certain states but still have the potential for misuse. Still others are legal when they’re prescribed by a doctor but not legal when you misuse them or buy them from a dealer on the street. Finally, millions of Americans use hard drugs like heroin and cocaine that are illegal wherever you go.
Many people with substance use disorders start off believing that they can keep their addiction under control. They tell themselves that they can use small amounts of cocaine, alcohol or prescription drugs without letting their habit affect their lives. Unfortunately, the habit inevitably takes control of their lives and makes them lose control. They find themselves spending thousands of dollars a month, meeting up with sketchy people and even committing crimes to fuel their substance use. They’re not bad people; they’re simply suffering from a disease that needs to be treated. As a result, thousands of people end up checking themselves into a drug rehab program every year.
Unfortunately, millions of people still struggle with addiction every day. While some substances like meth and heroin are shunned by society, others—like alcohol or marijuana—are culturally accepted and even encouraged in some areas. People in toxic environments often find it difficult to kick their habits. Some don’t even realize that they have a problem. When they’re part of a hard-drinking, hard-partying lifestyle, using recreational drugs is just another part of life. The effects of heavy drug use might not catch up with them until later in life when they start experiencing health and cognitive issues.
Substance use disorder is an epidemic in the United States, but that doesn’t mean it’s a foregone conclusion. Anyone can get help with a detox and rehabilitation program at a licensed rehab facility like Granite Recovery Centers. Until then, here’s a rundown of the 15 most misused drugs in the United States.
Year after year, alcohol is the most misused substance in America. Over 130 million people abuse alcohol every year. This is more than all the people who use PCP, LSD and crack combined. In the United States, alcohol is a perfectly legal substance that anyone can buy and drink once they’ve reached the age of 21. Many people develop an addiction in their teenage years and find it difficult to shake off the habit as adults.
Some people enjoy alcohol recreationally by having a few drinks at the occasional party or get-together. However, when you drink to the point of inebriation on a regular basis, recreational drinking becomes an addiction. Over time, excessive alcohol use can cause liver damage, heart disease, cancer, strokes and weak immune systems. Some people develop alcohol poisoning after consuming several drinks in a short period of time. Others put themselves and others in danger by getting behind the wheel of a vehicle when they’re too drunk to drive.
Some people can drink small amounts of alcohol without experiencing any negative effects. You can’t say the same for cigarettes, which are the second most frequently abused substance in the United States. Even smoking a single cigarette can cause health problems. Over time, cigarette use causes negative health effects like lung cancer, blood clots, strokes, infertility, birth defects, asthma attacks and much more. Cigarettes are also responsible for the vast majority of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) deaths in the United States. According to the CDC, cigarettes cause more deaths than HIV, illegal drug abuse and car accidents.
Contrary to popular belief, marijuana can be just as addictive as other illegal drugs. Marijuana has been legalized and decriminalized in several locations throughout the United States. Despite this, over 20 million people report misusing this drug every year. Regular marijuana use can inhibit regular brain development, especially among underage users. The drug can also increase the risk of strokes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. While some people smoke marijuana as a form of self-medicating to deal with anxiety and depression, others find that marijuana use actually worsens their anxiety and paranoia.
Many pain reliever addictions start with a doctor’s prescription. A doctor might prescribe opioids to a patient who recently underwent surgery or suffers from chronic pain. Since pain relievers cause pleasurable feelings, some people develop an addiction to the substance. When their prescription ends, they turn to drug dealers to get their opioids. Misuse of pain relievers can cause side effects like nausea, depression, fatigue, excessive sweating, dizziness and constipation. Many people build up a tolerance to the substance, requiring increased amounts to get the same desired effects.
While some drugs make people feel energetic and euphoric, others make them feel relaxed, happy and peaceful. Tranquilizers are one of the most frequently abused substances in the United States, particularly among people who struggle with anxiety or insomnia. Over time, tranquilizer use can cause cognitive issues like impaired judgment, memory lapses and depression. Frequent users might suffer from paranoia, aggressive behavior and breathing issues. If users suddenly stop taking tranquilizers, they might have seizures and other withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, it’s important to get treatment for tranquilizer misuse in a licensed treatment facility like Granite Recovery Centers.
Over one million Americans use cocaine every year. Cocaine is often seen as a “party drug” because it causes feelings of euphoria and high energy. However, cocaine is an extremely addictive drug that comes with severe health effects. People who use cocaine might suffer from heart attacks, strokes, seizures, nosebleeds, heart disease, paranoia, aggressive behavior and numerous other health issues. Like most drugs, cocaine loses its efficacy over time, requiring users to increase the amount that they take. Injecting cocaine also puts people at risk for HIV infections. If users overdose on cocaine, they might experience panic attacks, extreme paranoia and hallucinations.
Many people use stimulants to improve their mood, increase their energy levels and make them more cheerful and talkative. Unfortunately, stimulants have a dark side. You may feel better at first, but over time, regular stimulant use can cause increased anxiety, nausea, seizures and even death. Caffeine is technically classified as a stimulant, though it’s legal in the United States. Other forms of stimulants include nicotine and mephedrone. Once people start using stimulants, they might find that they need increasing amounts of the substance to recapture the euphoria that they experienced.
Methamphetamine (also known as “meth”) is one of the most dangerous drugs on the market. People who use meth often experience disturbing symptoms like hallucinations, delusions and extreme paranoia. If they try to stop taking the drug, they suffer from severe cravings accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. Some people continue to hallucinate for months or years after they use the drug. Over time, meth can permanently alter an individual’s brain, making it even harder for them to stop using the substance. They might suffer from seemingly never-ending feelings of depression, drowsiness and anxiety that encourages them to turn back to using meth.
Like cocaine, ecstasy is a popular “party drug” that makes people feel happy, optimistic and energetic. However, the drug has severe side effects when the euphoria starts to wear off. Side effects of ecstasy include depression, insomnia, aggression, cognitive issues, anxiety and decreased appetite. This can go on for up to a week after you use ecstasy. Some people take another dose to help them deal with the side effects, which could increase their risk of developing an addiction. Regular use can lead to serious health issues like organ failure.
While most drugs are popular among teenagers and young adults, inhalants are popular with preteens. Inhalants come in the form of various household products, making them easy for children to abuse. Popular inhalants include paint, glue, permanent markers, paint thinner, cooking spray, hair spray and much more. Immediately after inhaling the substance, users may experience dizziness, hallucinations, slurred speech, impaired judgment, loss of coordination and other cognitive effects. Some individuals lose consciousness and suffer from headaches afterward. In the long term, inhalants can cause serious health issues like organ damage, brain damage, hearing loss and even muscle spasms.
A doctor might prescribe a sedative like Xanax or Valium to help their patients manage anxiety or insomnia. Sedatives can be so effective that they easily drive people to abuse the substance. At first, users might find it easier to relax and get to sleep at night. Over long periods of use, they might experience fatigue during the day, blurred vision, slurred speech, impaired judgment, trouble focusing and other cognitive side effects. Long-term sedative use can worsen their depression and anxiety and cause liver damage. Some people even experience amnesia as a result of sedative abuse.
Heroin is an incredibly addictive drug that over 400,000 Americans use every year. When you start taking heroin, you might feel intense euphoria along with physical side effects like nausea, fatigue and dry mouth. If you try to stop taking the drug, you will experience severe withdrawal symptoms like nausea, insomnia, muscle spasms and cold flashes. For this reason, it’s difficult for people to stop using heroin without professional help. Long-term heroin use can lead to severe health effects like lung disease, liver disease, skin infections and collapsed veins. Many people inject heroin with shared needles, increasing their risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis.
Crack is a solid form of cocaine that’s even more addictive than the powdered version. While crack can make people feel cheerful and energetic for a short period of time, they tend to feel depressed, fatigued and paranoid until they get another dose of the drug. Many people suffer from aggression, anxiety and seizures as a result of regular crack use. As their body builds up a tolerance to the drug, they feel increasingly depressed to the point that they might consider suicide. They might also suffer from lung damage, liver damage and difficulty breathing on a daily basis.
LSD is famous for its psychoactive effects that cause hallucinations and altered perception. If you take a small dose of LSD, you might experience some mild hallucinations. When you take a larger dose, you could go on a “trip” that causes extreme hallucinations. Some people have “bad trips” with disturbing thoughts and terrifying images. They could also experience nausea, vomiting, excessive sweating, confusion, headaches and other side effects. People who take large amounts of LSD could trigger an overdose that comes with paranoia, panic attacks and vivid hallucinations.
PCP is another hallucinogenic drug that can make users feel detached from reality. The effects of PCP can include euphoria, distorted vision, anxiety, mood swings, depersonalization, impaired coordination and an intense feeling of dread. If you take a high dose, you could suffer from seizures, fall into a coma and even die. PCP can make people increasingly violent and paranoid, making them a danger to themselves as well as others around them. They might suffer from psychosis while simultaneously believing that they’re invincible, leading to dangerous and risk-taking behaviors. Some people struggle with cognitive issues for months after they stopped using PCP.
Every year, millions of Americans struggle with addictions to various substances. If you’re one of them, consider checking in to your nearest Granite Recovery Centers facility. We offer extensive treatment programs for people suffering from substance use disorders. Whether you’re addicted to alcohol, heroin, PCP, cocaine, prescription drugs or another substance, you can get in touch with us to see which program is right for you. If you’re not ready to check in just yet, take a look at our website to see how we could help you. We also offer outpatient services that help people get their lives together and successfully rejoin society.