Drug Usage

Estimated prevalence and trends in use of various substances by young people and adults in the United States and worldwide.

Prevalence of Drug Use in the US by Race/Ethnicity

Prevalence of Drug Use in the US by Race/Ethnicity: In 2013, among persons aged 12 or older, the rate of current illicit drug use was 3.1 percent among Asians, 8.8 percent among Hispanics, 9.5 percent among whites, 10.5 percent among blacks, 12.3 percent among American Indians or Alaska Natives, 14.0 percent among Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, and 17.4 percent among persons reporting two or more races.

Punitive Drug Control Policies Have Limited Effects

Limited Effects of Punitive Drug Policies: "The use of drugs seems to be a feature of more affluent countries. The US, which has been driving much of the world’s drug research and drug policy agenda, stands out with higher levels of use of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies, as well as (in many US states), a higher minimum legal alcohol drinking age than many comparable developed countries.

Estimated Number of Persons in the US with a Substance Use Disorder

"In 2017, an estimated 20.7 million people aged 12 or older needed substance use treatment. This translates to about 1 in 13 people who needed treatment. Among young adults aged 18 to 25, however, about 1 in 7 people needed treatment. For NSDUH, people are defined as needing substance use treatment if they had an SUD in the past year or if they received substance use treatment at a specialty facility in the past year.4

Estimated Age of Initiation of Substance Use By People in the US Aged 12 Or Older

"The illicit drugs with the largest number of recent initiates in 2016 were marijuana (2.6 million new users), prescription pain relievers (2.1 million new misusers), prescription tranquilizers (1.4 million new misusers), prescription stimulants (1.4 million new misusers), hallucinogens (1.2 million new users), and cocaine (1.1 million new users). In addition, there were 4.6 million new users of alcohol, 1.8 million people who tried a cigarette for the first time in the past year, and 1.2 million people who first used smokeless tobacco in the past year.34

Prevalence of Heavy Alcohol Use Among US Military Personnel

"• Among current drinkers, 39.6% reported binge drinking in the past month, with the Marine Corps reporting the highest prevalence of binge drinking (56.7%), and the Air Force reporting the lowest prevalence (28.1%).
"• When examining levels of drinking across all services, 9.9% were classified abstainers, 5.7% were former drinkers, and 84.5% were current drinkers; 58.6% of all personnel were classified as infrequent/light drinkers, 17.5% were moderate drinkers, and 8.4% were classified as heavy drinkers.

Prevalence of Drug Use Worldwide

"It is estimated that in 2016 some 275 million people worldwide had used drugs at least once in the previous year (range: 204 million to 346 million). Corresponding to 5.6 per cent of the global population aged 15–64 years (range: 4.2 to 7.1 per cent), or approximately 1 of every 18 people. The actual number of people who use drugs increased by 20 million people from 2015 to 2016.

Perceived Risk and Prevalence of Crack Use and Among Young People in the US

"Crack cocaine use spread rapidly from the early to mid-1980s. Still, among 12th graders, the use of crack remained relatively low during this period (3.9% annual prevalence in 1987). Clearly, crack had quickly attained a reputation as a dangerous drug, and by the time of our first measurement of perceived risk in 1987, it was seen as the most dangerous of all drugs. Annual prevalence dropped sharply in the next few years, reaching 1.5% by 1991, where it remained through 1993.

Effects of Decriminalization and Legalization on Adolescent Substance Use

Effects of Decriminalization and Legalization on Adolescent Substance Use: "Most 12th graders felt that they would be little affected personally by the legalization of either the sale or the use of marijuana. Over half (53%) of the respondents said that they would not use the drug even if it were legal to buy and use, while others indicated that they would use it about as often as they do now (14%) or less often (1%). Only 9% said they would use it more often than they do at present, while 13% thought they would try it. Another 11% said they did not know how their behavior would be affected if marijuana were legalized. Still, this amounts to 22% of all 12th graders, or about one in five, who thought that they would try marijuana, or that their use would increase, if marijuana were legalized.

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