Are Opiates the Biggest Addiction Problem in the United States?

The opiate epidemic sweeping the United States has caught the attention of every parent / relative of an at-risk person across the nation. Fueled by intense media coverage, the concern over opiate addiction seems to have surpassed that of other drugs. Easily accessible and cheap to buy, heroin and other opiates are growing in popularity across the United States. But are opiates the largest addiction issue in the United States today?

Alcoholism has long been the primary admission to publicly funded substance abuse programs in the United States.  In data provided by, 23.1% of admissions to publicly funded programs in 2008 were for alcohol only. Next on the list was for alcohol + another drug at 18.3% followed by Marijuana at 17%.


Percentage of AdmissionSubstance or Drug
23.1Alcohol Only
18.3Alcohol + Another Drug
8.1Smoked Cocaine (Crack)
5.9Opiates (not heroin)
3.2Nonsmoked Cocaine (e.g. cocaine powder)
0.4Other Drugs
2.2Non reported


However, the landscape of drug addiction is changing and in 2014 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( released their Treatment Episode Data Set or TEDS report covering addiction data from 2004 – 2014. The report provides information on the demographic and substance abuse characteristics of admissions aged 12 and older to treatment for abuse of alcohol and/or drugs in facilities that report to individual state administrative data systems.

From 2004 to 2014 there are 5 major substance groups that account for 96-97 percent of the primary substance of abuse ages 12 and older: alcohol, opiates, marijuana/hashish, cocaine, & methamphetamine/amphetamines.

  • Alcohol: Between 2004- 2014 the percentage of admissions ranged from a high in 2009 of 42% to a low in 36% in 2014. However, in 2014 44% of all primary alcohol admissions reported secondary drug use as well.
  • Opiates: Between 2004-2014 the percentage of Opiate primary admissions steadily rose from 18% in 2004 to 30% in 2014
    • Heroin: Primary admission for Heroin remained steady from 2004 (15%) to 2007 (13%) to 2011 (15%). However there has been a steady rise since 2011 peaking in 2014 with 22%.
    • Opiates other than Heroin: starting at 3% in 2004, primary admissions steadily rose to 10% in 2012 but have since declined to only 8% in 2014.
  • Marijuana/Hashish: admissions increased from 16 percent of admissions in 2004 to 19% in 2010, then decreased to 15% in 2014
  • Cocaine: Admissions have steadily dropped from 14% in 2004 to 5% in 2014.
  • Methamphetamine/Amphetamines: primary admissions have fluctuated from 6 to 9% from 2004 – 2014

The TEDS report provides statistical data which shows a steady rise in the number of primary admissions for Opiates (Heroin and non-Heroin opiates) from 2004 – 2014.  However, primary admissions for alcohol was still higher than any other substance at a rate of 214 per 100,000. The highest rates for illicit drugs were for heroin (131 per 100,000) and marijuana (91 per 100,000).

While the number of people suffering from opiate addition continues to rise, those suffering from alcohol addiction still comprise the majority battling addiction in the United States. Due to its legal status in the US alcoholism tends to go undiagnosed / under recognized by friends and family. If you know someone suffering from Drug or Alcohol addiction call Recovering Champions at 844-888-5391.