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

"NSDUH’s overall estimates of SUD [Substance Use Disorder] include people who met the DSM-IV criteria for either dependence or abuse for alcohol or illicit drugs. In 2018, approximately 20.3 million people aged 12 or older had an SUD in the past year, including 14.8 million who had an alcohol use disorder and 8.1 million who had an illicit drug use disorder (Figure 42). Among the 8.1 million people who had an illicit drug use disorder, the most common disorders were for marijuana (4.4 million) and misuse of prescription pain relievers (1.7 million).

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.

Attitudes Toward Decriminalization and Legalization of Marijuana Among US 12th Graders

"• In 2018 the proportion of 12th graders who favor legalization of marijuana was 48%, about the same as the record of 49% set in the previous year. Support for legalization has been steadily and rapidly increasing since 2008, when it was near 30%. Prior to 2008, support followed a U-shape curve, in which support levels near 30% were present at the beginning of the survey, in 1975, then dipped by half to a nadir of 15% in 1986-88, only to redouble and return to around 30% by 1995, where it hovered for a decade before rising considerably.

Attitudes of Young People Toward Legalization of Marijuana

"• Table 8-8 lists the proportions of 12th graders in 2018 who favor various legal consequences for marijuana use. The proportion who believe it should be entirely legal was 48%, near the record high set the previous year of 49%. As the percentage favoring legality increased, the percentage believing marijuana use should be a crime decreased and in 2018 was 11%, the lowest level recorded by the survey, having fallen from a peak of 53% in 1990.

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