Nearly 49 million people in the US ages 12 and older – more than 1 in 6 – had a substance use disorder in 2022, according to survey data released Monday by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Of those, about 30 million people had an alcohol use disorder, and 27 million had a drug use disorder, including about 6 million with a opioid use disorder. About 8 million people had both alcohol and drug use disorders, the survey found. Substance use disorders were considered severe for more than 1 in 5 people.
The survey also found that nearly a quarter of adults had a mental illness, including 1 in 12 who experienced both mental illness and substance use disorder. About 1 in 5 adolescents ages 12 to 17 – nearly 5 million – had had a major depressive episode in the past year.
“This year’s report shows that millions of Americans young and old continue to face mental health and substance use challenges, sometimes both at once,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said at a briefing Monday. “The data also confirmed that the opioid crisis remains one of the greatest public health challenges in the United States.”
The new data is based on responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative survey conducted annually by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Substance use disorders have become more common in the US, with about 2.5 million more people experiencing them in 2022 compared with 2021. Suicidal thoughts also increased among both adults and adolescents.
“There are many different factors that contribute to the patterns and trends,” Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at HHS and leader of SAMHSA, said in the briefing. “We do hear, in some instances, that people are continuing to experience some of the ripple effects of the pandemic. We know that there were challenges even before the pandemic and as a function of the pandemic. We see continued challenges.”
There are also some promising trends, experts say.
Alcohol use among adolescents and tobacco use across most age groups decreased, and most adults who perceive that they’ve had a substance use or a mental health challenge consider themselves to be in recovery, Delphin-Rittmon said.
Still, drug overdose deaths hover near record levels, and millions aren’t receiving treatment.
President Joe Biden has requested billions of dollars to strengthen substance use disorder services and address drug trafficking, and the new data reinforces the need for additional funding, advocates say.
“Congress must step up and provide the funding President Biden is requesting to expand essential life-saving services and crack down on illicit drug trafficking,” White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta said in a statement. “This is not a red state or a blue state issue: as the data shows, there are tens of millions of Americans in every state across the country affected by this public health crisis.”
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