Contrary to what you may believe, drug use disorders (DUDs) are considered mental health issues and are even covered under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5). Unfortunately, people turn a blind eye to drug addiction and simply blame it on a lack of willpower… until someone they know is affected. A recent study conducted by researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has revealed that 10 percent of the population has suffered a DUD during their lifetime.

"DSM-5 DUD is prevalent among U.S. adults," the research team said in a statement. "The public is increasingly less likely to disapprove of specific types of drug use (e.g., marijuana) or to see it as risky, and consistent with these attitudes, laws governing drug use are becoming more permissive. However, the present NESARC-III findings on disability and comorbidity indicate that DUDs as defined by the new DSM-5 nosology are serious conditions affecting many millions of Americans."

Lead author of the study Dr. Bridget F. Grant and her colleagues used the data from the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III to gauge the prevalence and treatment of DUDs. This data included in-person interviews with 36,309 adults and DUDs included marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, “club drugs,” heroin, hallucinogens, prescription opioids, tranquilizers, and inhalant use disorders.

Results showed that 3.9 percent of Americans — more than 9.1 million adults — were affected by a DUD within the last 12 months leading up to the survey, while 9.9 percent — more than 23.3 million adults — had suffered from a DUD at some point during their lifetime. DUDs were more prevalent among men, whites, and Native Americans, single adults, young married adults, people with lower education and income levels, and, interestingly, people in the West.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, DUDs are considered developmental disorders, meaning they often begin in teen years or even younger when the brain goes through significant developmental changes. People from the study affected by a DUD were also more likely to have alcohol and nicotine use disorders as well as mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and personality disorders.

One of the biggest problems facing the scope of DUDs in America is the lack of treatment afforded to drug users. When asked about treatment for DUDs, only 13.5 percent of those with a DUD in the past 12 months and 24.6 percent of those who suffered a lifetime DUD said they received treatment. On average, users received their treatment at the age of 27.7, which is around four years after the onset of the disease. While high ranking government officials have started to change their tune on drug abdication, more needs to be done before these statistics continue to rise.

Source: Hasin D, Huang B, Grant B, et al. Epidemiology of DSM-5 Drug Use Disorder Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions–III. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015.