The Most Commonly Abused Drugs In America

From young adults to college students to adults, most people who come to us for treatment abuse the following substances and then become addicted to them. Our observation also shows that most people begin using drugs as a casual experiment, or due to prescriptions for pain, however they find themselves unable to quit, leading to dangerous behaviors and harmful consequences. Others overuse drugs beyond their prescribed amounts, or misuse drugs without prescription. While drug use does not automatically lead to addiction, the unfortunate truth is that many substance abusers do become addicts for life.

Recognizing the most commonly abused drugs can help you be aware of exposure to them for yourself or your loved ones.

1. Alcohol

Alcohol has the highest rate of abuse among all drugs/substances, reporting more than 16 million people abusing or misusing alcohol by binge drinking or heavy drinking. Consumption of alcohol can damage the areas of the brain that are important for problem solving, decision making, memory and learning. Alcohol can also damage other organs such as the liver, kidneys, heart and several others. Alcohol still remains one of the major causes of deaths and DUI cases.

2. Marijuana

Only slightly less than alcohol, marijuana (weed/cannabis/pot/grass) is also one of the highest abused drugs, reporting more than 12 million people using it in some form. Although many states in the USA are legalizing marijuana, there are many risks associated with this substance. One of the risks with marijuana is that it may be laced with other, more addictive substances because there is no regulated way to purchase it in many states.

3. Opioids

Pain relievers and prescription medications are the next most commonly abused category of drugs, reporting over 10 million people using it in some form such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, vicodin and several others. Many opioids have high addiction rates, as few as ten days or less for someone to get addicted. What makes them even more dangerous is how many lives are lost due to overuse or misuse of opioids. 

4. Hallucinogens

Mind-altering drugs such as LSD, DMT, MDMA, as well as mushrooms carrying psilocybin are the next category of highly abused drugs. Users of hallucinogens, reported at around 7 million people, use it to experience perception-altering states such as euphoria and ecstasy. However, these hallucinogens are also known to create traumatic emotions and other bodily changes such as enhanced heart rate, increased blood pressure, and several others.

5. Depressants

This category includes medications commonly prescribed for anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other mental health conditions. More than 5 million people misuse or abuse these tranquilizers and sedatives such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates which are typically prescribed for improved sleep and as muscle relaxants.

If you suspect that you or your loved ones may be on the verge of addiction to one of these substances, or any substances at all, the earlier you seek treatment, the better your chances for recovery. 

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Alyssa Mueller


Alyssa Mueller is an Associate Clinical Social Worker. She holds a Master of Social Work with a concentration in Community Mental Health from California State University of Fullerton as well as a Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies with an emphasis on intercultural and interpersonal communication from California State University of Long Beach. Compassion, empowerment and unconditional positive regard are the foundations of her clinical practice, Alyssa has a passion for helping others and her priority is to hold space for clients to feel heard, to feel safe and to find fulfillment and self-love on their recovery journey. Alyssa specializes in addiction treatment, self-esteem building, mindfulness practices, grief and loss, trauma informed care, and self-compassion as well as individual and family therapy. She has extensive experience working with high risk populations in various clinical settings such as partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient care, outpatient treatment, schools, and community outreach. Alyssa uses a client centered and holistic approach to address the client as a whole person in order to help them to feel empowered and facilitate their confidence and independence.

Charee Marquez

LMFT - Clinical Director

Charee has worked in the recovery field for 10 years.Charee is dedicated to supporting and inspiring clients to live a healthy lifestyle filled with meaning and purpose.Charee has extensive clinical experience within the recovery field in both inpatient and outpatient settings.She specializes in working with individuals and families affected by the disease of addiction however she has also clinical experience in assisting individuals,couples and families in working through a variety of concerns,including: depression,anxiety,relationship & communication issues,substance abuse,grief & loss,trauma, life transitions, and many others.Charee works with each client to specialize their treatment plan with what works best for the client in a compassionate and effective way. She emphasizes the strength of every individual client and fosters an environment of personal growth and internal healing from a mind, body and spiritual approach.Charee received her Bachelor of Arts from Seton Hall University, Majoring in Psychology and Minoring in Women and Gender Studies, in addition to her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Southern California.

Stephen Carmel

Founder & CEO

I began my journey to recovery back in 2011 when I moved to California from New York.Along wiht my recovery and beginning a new way of life,I began to develop a heart for others struffling with sobriety.My journey to California was filled with many trials and lessons learned, but most of all, personal growht.I truly believe i would not have found success if I didn’t come to California.I started CPR as a way to work with people in recovery on a daily basis and it evolved into something much more beautiful. I have also come to realize that my own personal happiness and recovery depends on being involved in the lives of people in recovery. Helping others recover is a cornerstone of many 12 step programs, as it is here. Giving back to those still suffering, is the only way not to lose what you have gained. It is the paradox that we live by every day.