The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released the findings from its annual survey on drug and alcohol use in the US. The report presents detailed results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which is the primary source of information on the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States aged 12 years old or older.
This is no small undertaking. Approximately 67,500 persons are interviewed in NSDUH each year, and usage rates are determined to be “increased,” “decreased,” “more than” or “less than” past findings. The report is also a group effort, requiring the help of multiple organizations including the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ), SAMHSA, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and RTI International.
In the area of illicit drug use, the numbers didn’t rise or fall dramatically, but there were some shifts, including a spike in drug use later in life:
- In 2013, an estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users. This estimate represents 9.4 percent of the population aged 12 or older. Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants or prescription-type psychotherapeutics (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives) used non-medically.
- The rate of current illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older in 2013 was similar to the rates in 2010 (8.9 percent) and 2012 (9.2 percent), but it was higher than the rates in 2002 to 2009 and in 2011 (ranging from 7.9 to 8.7 percent).
- Among adults aged 50 to 64, the rate of current illicit drug use increased from 2.7 percent in 2002 to 6.0 percent in 2013. For adults aged 50 to 54, the rate increased from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7.9 percent in 2013. Among those aged 55 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 5.7 percent in 2013. Among those aged 60 to 64, the rate of current illicit drug use increased from 1.1 percent in 2003 and 2004 to 3.9 percent in 2013.
When it came to marijuana use, the rates didn’t show a huge rise, but the number of illicit drug users who count marijuana as a drug of choice is a staggering 80.6 percent. Also shocking is that the number of those 12 or older using marijuana on a daily or almost daily basis rose by 3 million. Here are the details:
The number of those 12 or older using marijuana on a daily or almost daily basis rose by 3 million
- Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug in 2013. There were 19.8 million past month users in 2013 (7.5 percent of those 12 or older), which was similar to the number and rate in 2012 but higher than the rates in 2002 to 2011 (ranging from 5.8 to 7.0 percent). Marijuana was used by 80.6 percent of current illicit drug users in 2013.
- Daily or almost daily use of marijuana (used on 20 or more days in the past month) increased from 5.1 million persons in 2005 to 2007 to 8.1 million persons in 2013.
Cocaine and heroin continue to have a stranglehold on the population as well, with cocaine use holding steady and heroin use staying higher than in the last decade:
- In 2013, there were 1.5 million current cocaine users aged 12 or older, or 0.6 percent of the population. These estimates were similar to the numbers and rates in 2009 to 2012 (ranging from 1.4 million to 1.7 million or from 0.5 to 0.7 percent), but they were lower than those in 2002 to 2007 (ranging from 2.0 million to 2.4 million or from 0.8 to 1.0 percent).
- The number of past year heroin users in 2013 (681,000) was similar to the numbers in 2009 to 2012 but higher than the numbers in 2002 to 2005, 2007, and 2008.
Prescription drug abuse continues to be a problem, but at least rates aren’t rising dramatically. In fact, the rate of current nonmedical use of prescription-type drugs declined among teens in the past decade.
- The percentage of persons 12 or older who used prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs non-medically in the past month in 2013 (2.5 percent) was similar to the percentages in 2010 to 2012 (ranging from 2.4 to 2.7 percent).
- Among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate of current nonmedical use of prescription-type drugs declined from 4.0 percent in 2002 and 2003 to 2.2 percent in 2013. The rate of nonmedical pain reliever use among youths also declined from 3.2 percent in 2002 and 2003 to 1.7 percent in 2013.
When it comes to alcohol abuse, young adults continue to score high, but rates of binge drinking among teens are down while drunk driving continues to be a problem:
- In 2013, nearly one quarter (22.9 percent) of persons aged 12 or older were binge alcohol users in the past 30 days. This translates to about 60.1 million people. The rate in 2013 was similar to the estimate in 2012 (23.0 percent). Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the 30 days prior to the survey.
- Among young adults aged 18 to 25 in 2013, the rate of binge drinking was 37.9 percent, and the rate of heavy drinking was 11.3 percent. These rates were lower than the corresponding rates in 2012 (39.5 and 12.7 percent, respectively).
- The rate of current alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17 was 11.6 percent in 2013. Youth binge and heavy drinking rates in 2013 were 6.2 and 1.2 percent, respectively. The rates for current and binge alcohol use were lower than those reported in 2012 (12.9 and 7.2 percent, respectively).
- In 2013, an estimated 10.9 percent of persons aged 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year. This percentage was lower than in 2002 (14.2 percent), but it was similar to the rate in 2012 (11.2 percent).
- An estimated 8.7 million underage persons (aged 12 to 20) were current drinkers in 2013, including 5.4 million binge drinkers and 1.4 million heavy drinkers. All of these percentages were slightly lower than those in 2012.
The statistics can be sobering, but we can’t fight a problem if we aren’t armed with information.
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