Which Three Drugs Do Individuals Use & Abuse the Most?

There are many different types of drugs in existence – some that can cure deadly disorders, a few that produce a certain sensation, and others that could cause serious health complications. While every drug out there varies based on their ingredients and purposes, most of them have one big thing in common: they have the potential to be abused and cause dependence.

Almost everyone in the United States who drinks alcohol or smokes marijuana occasionally could be considered a “drug user.” These users, in most cases, are able to set the substances aside and continue their lives without them. Drug abusers, on the other hand, might have a harder time resisting certain substances. These substances could include over-the-counter drugs, prescriptions, illicit drugs, cannabis, alcohol, and more. While some of these drugs are very common, they can cause serious complications from addiction to death. Knowing the risks of these popular substances can help you protect yourself and make good decisions regarding drugs and alcohol.


What Are The 3 Most Commonly Used Drugs?

The three most commonly used drugs in the United States are currently cannabis (also known as marijuana, pot, and weed), alcohol, and prescription painkillers. These substances, listed below in no particular order, each have their own specific effects and potential risks.


Marijuana is a mild hallucinogen derived from the cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis, which was the most commonly abused illegal drug in the United States just a few years ago, is now decriminalized and is becoming legalized for medical or recreational purposes in several states. About 12 million people in the United States have reported to either use or abuse marijuana.

The drug acts as a central nervous system stimulant and is known to cause effects like relaxation, sleepiness, increased appetite, distorted sense of reality, paranoia, and more. In some cases, marijuana can eventually cause dull memory, increased heart rate, chronic cough, and other complications. It is unlikely for someone to die from using too much marijuana, but they can face serious illnesses in the future. 

Pain Relievers

Prescription painkillers are the most widely abused drug in the United States. They are known to cause a sense of euphoria and extreme excitement that not many other drugs can produce. Some examples of commonly-abused pain relievers include morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone, vicodin, and hydrocodone. Since they are available by prescription, these substances are very easy to access and abuse. On average, about 9 to 10 million people in the United States abuse some sort of pain reliever medication.


Alcohol is probably the most popular drug in the United States because it is legal for people over 21 and is available at a majority of restaurants and dining establishments. Common side effects include impaired motor skills, slurred speech, lowered inhibitions, and more.

In order to be considered a heavy drinker, a man has to drink more than 2-3 standard drinks per day and a woman has to consume 1-2 standard drinks. Heavy drinking can eventually lead to conditions like pancreatitis, liver disease, and heart disease. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are currently about 14 million people in the United States with an alcohol abuse problem or addiction.


Substance Abuse Treatment Options

Depending on the person and which substance/s they consume, the emotional and physical responses to drugs and alcohol may vary. If an individual begins to rely on any of these substances or displays risky behavior as a result of drinking or doing drugs, it may be time for them to consider alcohol or drug abuse treatment.

Treatment options will likely include counseling, support groups, medication, and more. To learn about possible treatment methods for alcohol or drug abuse, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of substance abuse treatment representatives. Give us a call at 267.209.7312.