Overview of Drug Use in the United States

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), estimates the prevalence of illicit drug use in the United States. Some of the more notable statistics from the 2006 study follow.

  • An estimated 20.4 million Americans age 12 years or older were current users of illicit drugs in 2006, meaning they used an illicit drug at least once during the 30 days prior to being interviewed. This represents 8.3% of the population 12–17 years. The rate declined slightly between 2002 and 2006 (8.2% in 2002 and 6.7% in 2006).
  • Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, with a rate of 6.0% (14.8 million current users). There were 2.4 million current cocaine users, 702,000 of whom used crack. Hallucinogens were used by 1 million people, and there were an estimated 338,000 heroin users. All of these estimates are similar to estimates for 2005.
  • Between 2002 and 2004, past-month marijuana use declined for male and female youths aged 12 to 17 (9.1% in 2002, 8.1% in 2004, and 6.8% in 2006), but it remained level for female youths (7.2%, 7.1%, and 6.4% respectively) during the same time span.
  • The number of current users of Ecstasy (MDMA) is similar to the 2005 estimate with 528,000 users in 2006, but lifetime use of ecstacy increased from 10.2 million in 2002 to 12.3 million in 2006.
  • In 2006, 7.0 million persons were current users of psychotherapeutic drugs taken nonmedically (2.8%). These include 5.2 million who used pain relievers, 1.8 million who used tranquilizers, 1.2 million who used stimulants, and 0.4 million who used sedatives. These estimates are all similar to the corresponding estimates for 2005.
  • Among youths aged 12 to 17, rates of current illicit drug use varied significantly by major racial/ethnic groups in 2006. The rate was highest among American Indian or Alaska Native youths (18.7%). Rates were 11.8% for youths reporting two or more races, 10.8% for white youths, 8.9% for Hispanic youths, 10.2% for black youths, and 6.7% for Asian youths.
  • In 2006, 18.5% of unemployed adults aged 18 or older were current illicit drug users compared with 8.8% of those employed full time and 9.4% of those employed part time. However, of the 17.9 million illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2006, 13.4 million (74.9%) were employed either full or part time.
  • About 22.6 million Americans aged 12 or older in 2006 were classified with past year substance dependence or abuse (9.2% of the population). Of these, 3.2 million were classified with dependence on or abuse of both alcohol and illicit drugs, 3.8 million were dependent on or abused illicit drugs but not alcohol, and 15.6 million were dependent on or abused alcohol but not illicit drugs.

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