Substance Misuse

Substance misuse is a serious public health challenge. It includes the use of illegal drugs and the inappropriate use of legal substances, such as alcohol and tobacco.

Whether through overindulgence in alcohol, misuse of prescription medication, or use of illegal drugs, such misuse is harmful to our health. More than 15,000 people died from overdoses of prescription opioids in 2015 alone. And 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related injuries, the third most common preventable cause of death in the United States. 

Substance misuse also harms our economy. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates it costs the United States $232 billion in health care costs and $740 billion overall. A Healthy People 2020 goal is to "Reduce substance abuse to protect the health, safety and quality of life for all, especially children."

Find out more about our work on this topic.

APHA Resources

Read more about prescription drug overdose.

Join or learn more about APHA's Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Section.

See how Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington are regulating legal, non-medial cannabis use (PDF).

Learn how APHA is supporting the public health field in adapting to legal, non-medical cannabis (PDF).

Resources from States and Partner Organizations

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials — Map of state legalization of medical and non-medical cannabis use

Trust for America's Health — Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy

Altrum.org — The Potential Societal Benefit of Eliminating Opioid Overdoses, Deaths and Substance Use Disorders Exceeds $95 Billion Per Year

Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment — How Colorado is regulating legal cannabis

Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board — FAQs on Marijuana

Oregon — Oregon's regulation of legal cannabis

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health — Alaska’s cannabis laws and regulations

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Treatment Navigator

APHA Policy Statements
American Journal of Public Health Articles