Drug Abuse BLOG

Drug Abuse by Demographics

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It is the primary source of statistical information on the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco by the U.S. civilian, non-institutionalized population aged 12 or older. Approximately 67,500 persons are interviewed in NSDUH each year. The following highlights the information from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) about illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older. The survey was conducted from January through December 2011.

In 2011, an estimated 22.5 million Americans (8.7% of the population) aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users. Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutics (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives) used non-medically.

Differences by Type of Drugs:


    • An estimated 8 million people aged 12 or older (3.1%) were current users of illicit drugs other than marijuana in 2011. The majority of these users (6.1 million persons or 2.4% of the population) were non-medical users of psychotherapeutic drugs, including 4.5 million users of pain relievers, 1.8 million users of tranquilizers, 970,000 users of stimulants, and 231,000 users of sedatives.

Differences by Age Group:

    • The rate of current illicit drug use varied by age. Among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate increased from 3.3% at ages 12 or 13 to 9.2% at ages 14 or 15 to 17.2% at ages 16 or 17.

    • The highest rate of current illicit drug use was among 18 to 20 year olds (23.8%), with the next highest rate among 21 to 25 year olds (19.9%).

    • In 2011, adults aged 26 or older were less likely to be current users of illicit drugs than youths aged 12 to 17 or young adults aged 18 to 25 (6.3% vs. 10.1% and 21.4%, respectively).
Teenage Drug Abuse Yearly Trends Graph

Differences by Gender:

    • In 2011, the rate of current illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older was higher for males (11.1%) than for females (6.5%).

    • Males were more likely than females to be current users of several different illicit drugs, including marijuana (9.3% vs. 4.9%), non-medical use of prescription drugs (2.6% vs. 2.2%), cocaine (0.7% vs. 0.4%), and hallucinogens (0.5% vs. 0.3%).
Women Drug Abuse Yearly Trends Graph

Pregnant Women:

    • Among pregnant women aged 15 to 44, 5% were current illicit drug users based on data averaged across 2010 and 2011. This was lower than the rate among women in this age group who were not pregnant (10.8%).


Race/Ethnicity:

    • In 2011, among persons aged 12 or older, the rate of current illicit drug use was lowest among Asians (3.8%).

    • The rates were 8.4% among Hispanics, 8.7% among whites, 10% among blacks, 11% among Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, 13.4% among American Indians or Alaska Natives, and 13.5% among persons of two or more races.
Yearly Drug Abuse Trends by Race Graph

Education Status:

    • In 2011, the rate of current illicit drug use was lower among college graduates (5.4%) than those with some college education (10.4%), high school graduates (8.9%), and those who had not graduated from high school (11.1%).


Employment Status:

    • Among unemployed adults aged 18 or older, 17.2% were current illicit drug users, which was higher than the 8% of those employed full-time and 11.6% of those employed part-time. However, most illicit drug users were employed. Of the 19.9 million current illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2011, 13.1 million (65.7%) were employed either full or part-time.
Yearly Drug Abuse Trends in the Workplace Graph

Geographic Area:

    • Among persons aged 12 or older, the rate of current illicit drug use in 2011 was 10.5% in the West, 9.2% in the Northeast, 8.5% in the Midwest, and 7.5% in the South.

    • In 2011, the rate of current illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older was 9.2% in large metropolitan counties, 8.7% in small metropolitan counties, and 7.2% in nonmetropolitan counties as a group.

    • Within nonmetropolitan areas, the rate was 8.5% in urbanized counties, 6.3% in less urbanized counties, and 5.7% in completely rural counties.
Yearly Drug Abuse Trends by Geography Graph

Sources:  http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2011SummNatFindDetTables/Index.aspx