The results of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2020 survey have been reported and the results are staggering. According to the survey, over 40 million Americans met criteria for and were living with a substance use disorder in 2020.


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. Substance use disorders are defined as mild, moderate, or severe to indicate the level of severity, which is determined by the number of diagnostic criteria met by an individual.


On a phone call with reporters detailing the results of the recent survey, Captain Michael King, PhD, MSW, acting director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality said,


“Many longstanding behavioral health problems are still here and are possibly getting worse.”


In terms of the total substance use disorder results reported in the survey, the total of over 40 million Americans represents a doubling from the results of the 2019 SAMHSA annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which had results closer to 20 million. The large doubling of the total number most likely can be explained by changes in methodology used in compiling the survey and results. Therefore, while there is little doubt that millions of Americans meet criteria for substance use disorder, are suffering from substance use disorder and addiction, and are in need of addiction treatment services, there should be caution in concern for the doubling of total Americans suffering from a substance use disorder in results compiled from 2019 and 2020.


SAMHSA’s survey also compiles information on American’s issues concerning mental health and mental illness. The 2020 survey found that 21% of adults 18 years of age or older were classified as meeting criteria for having a mental illness. That total comes to be about 53 million people in the United States. Additionally, nearly 6% of the population, or close to 14 million Americans, meet criteria for having a serious mental illness in 2020. The 2020 also collected information on youth mental health, suicide, and 2020 was the first year that included the survey asking and compiling information related to youth suicide, as well as vaping trends. Race and ethnicity data was also included in the 2020 survey.


70,000 randomly selected Americans provided feedback and information during in-person interviews with SAMHSA in past surveys. However, in 2020 due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic, SAMHSA was only able to collect data for half the year and the total number of interviews was close to 35,000. SAMHSA also included technology, web survey methods, and virtual data compiling methods this year, again due to the ongoing pandemic.


The numbers from the 20202 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health can lead to several overall trends and conclusions. First, the number of Americans suffering from addiction and that meet criteria for substance use disorders is continuing to rise. Second, the data and results from the survey clearly shows that many Americans in need of addiction treatment are not receiving it, whether they are not taking steps to receive help or they are unable to access treatment and recovery services. Survey results demonstrated that 41 million Americans meet criteria for needing treatment for addiction and substance use disorder. Data also showed that less than half of American adults with any mental health or mental illness actually received services for their issues. Finally, survey data demonstrated that for individuals with co-occurring disorders (individuals that have both a substance use disorder and a mental health condition), less than 6% of individuals received treatment or services for both.


If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at

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