Drug addiction is a serious mental health condition that can have long-lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. And to make things more complicated, some drugs are legal, prescribed by physicians, or widely accepted and used in society. For individuals struggling with addiction, these factors can make it more challenging to spot the difference between recreational use and addiction.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse has identified the most commonly abused drugs:


Alcohol is legal for adults over the age of 21 to consume, but it’s still a highly addictive substance. The NIH estimates that 14.5 million Americans aged 12 and older have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Alcohol is a particularly challenging addiction as drinking is such a common practice in society today. As a result, individuals struggling with AUD are often met with temptation daily.


Recreational marijuana is now legal in 17 states, making this substance incredibly accessible to adults. There is a popular misconception that marijuana isn’t addictive, but this isn’t correct. In particular, marijuana use is concerning in youth as studies have shown increased cannabis use can have long-term impacts on the brain development. Additionally, marijuana is often a “gateway drug” that opens the door to increased experimentation with more dangerous drugs.


Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that makes people feel supercharged. According to the NIH, cocaine use has remained relatively stable since 2009. In 2014, 1.5 million Americans aged 12 or older reported using cocaine in the previous month. Adults aged 18-25 have the highest percentage of using cocaine. The more a person uses cocaine, the more their risk of adverse physiological or psychological effects increases.


Methamphetamine, often referred to as meth, is an addictive drug that can have a particularly harmful impact on a person’s physical and mental health. A 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 1.6 million Americans reported using meth in the last year. This is relatively on par with the reported cocaine usage across the nation. In 2020, the NIH reported a surge in meth overdose deaths.


Heroin use has been rising in the United States since 2007. In 2016, 948,000 Americans reported using heroin in the past year. Heroin is incredibly addictive and difficult to stop using by yourself. Individuals who have been using heroin experience intense withdrawal symptoms that can make it hard to stay sober.


MDMA, also known as Molly and Ecstasy, is a popular “club drug” among younger people. This drug gives people an elevated sense of pleasure, energy and empathy. Unfortunately, as MDMA is made up illegally of dangerous chemicals, it can be hazardous to take. In addition, MDMA is often mixed with other drugs, such as meth or cocaine, and the combination can have life-threatening consequences.

Opioid Pain Relievers

The United States has been dealing with an opioid epidemic since 1991. Almost 500,000 people have died from an overdose involving a type of opioid from 1999-2019. Prescription opioids are particularly problematic because individuals often don’t understand the risk of addiction when their physicians give them this substance. Additionally, many individuals who get addicted to prescription opioids end up transferring to heroin use.

Live Free Recovery Programs Can Help

Drug addiction is a complicated but treatable disease. Individuals can overcome their addiction with professional help. At Live Free Recovery, we believe in an individualized approach to drug treatment. Individuals can choose the type of program that works for them. Live Free Recovery offers a partial hospitalization program, outpatient treatment, and a sober living program.

Take back control of your life today by contacting Live Free Health.