Top 7 Most Used Drugs in 2020

Many of the most commonly used drugs this year can cause major health problems or even death. Here’s a look at the top 7 drugs of 2020 & the dangers of each.


Every year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) surveys U.S. residents to find out the details on current drug use nationwide. According to the most recent results, about 53.2 million people ages 12 and older used illicit drugs within the last year—that’s about 19% of the population. With the challenges that have presented during the pandemic, experts have said they’re worried that the rates of drug use are now even higher in 2020. After all, people are dealing with job loss, depression, anxiety and uncertainty about their future. And many are relying on harmful substances to help them cope.

Take a look at the most commonly abused drugs this year to get an idea of what most drug users in the U.S. have been using.


The most commonly abused drug currently is marijuana. More than 43 million people admitted to using this drug on a SAMHSA survey from 2018. Part of its popularity is that many people think this drug is all natural, with no deadly side effects or possibility of overdose. Add in the fact that it’s now legal for recreational use in 15 states and Washington D.C., and you can see why many marijuana users assume it’s harmless.

However, this drug can create unpleasant health effects in people who use it continuously long term. Some examples include paranoia, hallucinations and memory problems. Also, studies have found that emergency-room visits involving marijuana increased by 101% in 2018. Rates of suicide and DUI involving marijuana are also up in the last few years. This suggests that this drug isn’t harmless for many people, even where it is legal.


More than 165 million people said they drank alcohol within the last year. And while some people can drink on occasion with no health issues, many people can’t. In fact, a 2018 survey found that more than 14 million adults suffer from alcohol use disorder. This means they can’t stop drinking even when their alcohol abuse causes issues with their job, health or relationships.

If you’re addicted to alcohol, you need to get help today. Alcohol abuse can increase your risk of heart problems, high blood pressure, and stroke—all health issues that can be deadly. Alcohol can also damage your liver, pancreas, brain and lungs, causing major medical problems and even death.

Prescription Opioids

About 9.9 million adults said they abused prescription painkillers within the last year. Considering that this class of drugs falls into the opioid category, this is a big deal. Opioids are highly addictive and can often lead to a fatal overdose. The most common prescription opioids are hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl. Some brand names for prescription opioids you might recognize are Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin.

If you’re taking these painkillers as prescribed by your doctor—at the right dose and frequency to reduce pain—you’re taking them correctly. But if you take a higher dose than prescribed, you’re abusing this drug. Also, if you’re using someone else’s prescription drugs, you’re abusing prescription opioids. Opioids of this kind are known for being hard to quit. In fact, many people end up taking too many pills, which can slow or even stop the breath, causing a fatal overdose.

Prescription Sedatives and Tranquilizers

About 6.4 million people have abused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in the last year. This category of drugs is often used to treat anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and similar disorders. The purpose of sedatives and tranquilizers is to slow down the central nervous system.

But like many medications, some people become addicted to sedatives and tranquilizers. This means they keep increasing their dosage to the point of experiencing dangerous or even deadly side effects. When you overdose on this drug, your brain will slow down so much that you might experience shallow breathing, extreme fatigue, confusion, slurred speech and paranoia. In some cases, your breathing can slow down to a degree which can cause it to stop altogether.


Hallucinogens distort your perception of reality, so it’s no surprise that they’re dangerous. And yet, about 5.6 million people said they used them in the last year. Some of the most common hallucinogens include LSD, PCP, ecstasy, peyote, salvia and ketamine.

Some of the effects of these kinds of drugs include paranoia, dehydration, loss of coordination and psychosis. As a result, hallucinogens can cause serious injuries and even death in some people. After all, this drug can lead you to do things you normally wouldn’t do. Some examples include jumping out of a window, falling down the stairs, taking other dangerous substances or even committing suicide.


About 5.5 million people said they tried cocaine or crack cocaine in 2018. Whether you snort, inject or smoke this drug, you’re risking your health every time you use it. It’s meant to stimulate your nervous system and give you a euphoric high. At the same time, however, cocaine increases your heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.

This can lead to: irritability, paranoia, panic, tremors, vertigo and dangerous behavior that can cause injury or death. And increasingly, cocaine is laced with even more harmful drugs, such as fentanyl or heroin. This only adds to the danger of cocaine.

Prescription Stimulants

About 5.1 million people said they’ve used prescription stimulants in the last year or so. While many people need these drugs to treat ADHD or narcolepsy, some people are just chasing the euphoric high they can bring on. But this comes at a price. Since stimulants can cause irregular heartbeat, seizures, heart disease, paranoia and psychosis.

Popular brands of stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta and Dexedrine. If you’ve abused any of these stimulants or think you’re addicted, you need to get treatment before you experience health problems as a result.

Get Help

If you’ve abused any of the previously listed drugs, you owe it to yourself to get treatment today. Leaving addiction untreated will only result in dealing with health issues that gradually get worse, overdose and death. Reach out to Northeast Addictions Treatment Center to get the drug treatment you deserve from an experienced staff who care about your health. We provide a range of therapies to treat drug addictions, so contact our center in Quincy, MA today!

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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