WASHINGTON (WLNS) – National rates of drug misuse rose from 15% in 2003 to 19% in 2018, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Nationally, since 2002, rates of drug misuse have increased, according to GAO’s analysis of federal data.

The rates of drug overdose deaths have also generally increased nationally since the early 2000s. Over 716,000 people have died of a drug overdose since 2002, and in 2018 alone, over 67,000 people died as a result of a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal agencies may struggle to focus on drug misuse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the pandemic could fuel contributing factors of misuse—such as unemployment—stressing the long-term need to sustain and build upon ongoing efforts.>>>

Although the number of drug overdose deaths in 2018 decreased compared to 2017, drug misuse in the United States continued to rise.

In 2017, 43.2 percent of counties had estimates of more than 20 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people, including 448 counties with rates that were significantly higher than this amount.

Note: CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics used a statistical model to estimate rates of drug overdose deaths to account for counties where data were sparse because of small population size.

In 2018, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that an estimated 19 percent of the U.S. population, over 53 million people, misused or abused drugs, an increase from an estimated 14.7 percent in 2003.

Note: Large and small metro counties are in metropolitan statistical areas and have a population of 1 million or more and fewer than 1 million, respectively. Metropolitan statistical areas have at least one urbanized area and include adjacent counties with a high degree of social and economic integration with the urbanized area. All other counties are non-metro counties.

Drug misuse—the use of illicit drugs and the misuse of prescription drugs—has been a persistent and long-standing public health issue in the United States.

In GAO’s March 2019 High-Risk report, GAO named drug misuse as an emerging issue requiring close attention.