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About 10 percent of Americans have dealt with a drug use disorder at some point in their lives, the National Institutes of Health reported Wednesday.

That shakes out to more than 23 million adults in the United States who have had the disorder, which is diagnosed based on symptoms including cravings, withdrawals, and shirking personal and professional responsibilities.

But 75 percent of them report never receiving any treatment for their problem, according to the NIH study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, which looked at addiction problems tied to drugs such as amphetamines, heroin, and marijuana.


“The treatment gap is pretty severe,” said Bridget Grant, a senior investigator at the NIH. She attributed that gap in large part to the stigma around drug use.

Plus, she said, doctors don’t always know to look for a drug use disorder when a patient presents with psychiatric problems, or vice versa.


“We need to have clinicians doing better at recognizing these problems,” Grant said, “and we need to educate doctors and potential patients alike that drug treatment is effective.” Treatment often includes individual or group counseling or inpatient addiction programs.

The new numbers line up with other research on the prevalence of drug use disorders. A study done by the State Health Care Spending Project found that only 18 percent of Americans with substance abuse problems received treatment in 2013.