Number of Americans who used illicit drugs in past year 2018, by drug type

Marijuana is by far the most used illicit drug in the United States, with around 43.5 million people using this drug in 2018. The second most used drug at that time was cocaine, followed by ecstasy and LSD. The United States has had a complicated history with drugs, from fighting a “War on Drugs” starting in the 1970s, to seeing the legalisation of marijuana in many states, and experiencing an ongoing nationwide opioid overdose epidemic.

Recreational marijuana

Although marijuana is still illegal under federal law, 11 states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. This legalization has opened a new and thriving market in these states. It is estimated that sales of legal cannabis will reach around 23 billion U.S. dollars by the year 2025. Although support for the legalization of marijuana has not always been strong, now around 66 percent of U.S. adults believe it should be made legal.

The opioid epidemic

The opioid epidemic describes a rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. due to prescription opioids, heroin, and illegally manufactured synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The epidemic stems from misleading information from pharmaceutical companies concerning the dangers of opioids such as oxycontin, overprescribing of opioids from physicians, and an influx of easily accessible heroin and highly potent synthetic opioids. In 2018, there were around 46,802 deaths from opioid overdose in the United States.

Number of people in the U.S. who used selected illicit drugs in the past year as of 2018

Number of people in thousands
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Release date

August 2019


United States

Survey time period


Number of respondents

base: around 70,000

Age group

12 years and older

Method of interview


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Statistics on "Drug use in the U.S."

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