Illicit Drug Use and Abuse Statistics

This report presents a first look at results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States aged 12 years old or older. The report presents national estimates of rates of use, numbers of users, and other measures related to illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products. Measures related to mental health problems also are presented, including data on serious mental illness, depression, and the co-occurrence of substance use and mental health problems. The report focuses on trends between 2007 and 2008 and from 2002 to 2008, as well as differences across population subgroups in 2008.

Past Year Perceived Need for and Effort Made to Receive Specialty Treatment among Persons Aged 12 or Older Needing, But Not Receiving Treatment for Illicit Drug or Alcohol Use: 2008

illicit drug use

Illicit Drug Use

  • In 2008, an estimated 20.1 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug during the month prior to the survey interview. This estimate represents 8.0 percent of the population aged 12 years old or older. Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutics used nonmedically.
  • The rate of current illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older in 2008 (8.0 percent) was the same as the rate in 2007 (8.0 percent).
  • Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug (15.2 million past month users). Among persons aged 12 or older, the rate of past month marijuana use in 2008 (6.1 percent) was similar to the rate in 2007 (5.8 percent).
  • In 2008, there were 1.9 million current cocaine users aged 12 or older, comprising 0.7 percent of the population. These estimates were similar to the number and rate in 2007 (2.1 million or 0.8 percent), but lower than the estimates in 2006 (2.4 million or 1.0 percent).
  • Hallucinogens were used in the past month by 1.1 million persons (0.4 percent) aged 12 or older in 2008, including 555,000 (0.2 percent) who had used Ecstasy. These estimates were similar to the corresponding estimates for 2007.
  • There were 6.2 million (2.5 percent) persons aged 12 or older who used prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically in the past month. These estimates were lower than in 2007 (6.9 million or 2.8 percent).
  • The number of past month methamphetamine users decreased by over half between 2006 and 2008. The numbers were 731,000 in 2006, 529,000 in 2007, and 314,000 in 2008.
  • Rates of current use of illicit drugs in 2008 were higher among young adults aged 18 to 25 (19.6 percent) than for youths aged 12 to 17 (9.3 percent) and adults aged 26 or older (5.9 percent). Among young adults, there were no changes from 2007 to 2008 in the rate of current use of marijuana (16.5 percent in 2008), psychotherapeutics (5.9 percent), and hallucinogens (1.7 percent). The rate of cocaine use in this age group declined from 2.6 percent in 2005 to 1.5 percent in 2008.
  • From 2002 to 2008, there was an increase among young adults aged 18 to 25 in the rate of current nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers (from 4.1 to 4.6 percent) and in LSD (from 0.1 to 0.3 percent). There were decreases in the use of inhalants (from 0.5 to 0.3 percent) and methamphetamine (from 0.6 to 0.2 percent).
  • Among those aged 50 to 59, the rate of past month illicit drug use increased from 2.7 percent in 2002 to 4.6 percent in 2008. This trend may partially reflect the aging into this age group of the baby boom cohort, whose lifetime rate of illicit drug use is higher than those of older cohorts.
  • Among persons aged 12 or older in 2007-2008 who used pain relievers nonmedically in the past 12 months, 55.9 percent got the drug they most recently used from a friend or relative for free. Another 18.0 percent reported they got the drug from one doctor. Only 4.3 percent got pain relievers from a drug dealer or other stranger, and 0.4 percent bought them on the Internet. Among those who reported getting the pain reliever from a friend or relative for free, 81.7 percent reported in a follow-up question that the friend or relative had obtained the drugs from just one doctor.
  • Among unemployed adults aged 18 or older in 2008, 19.6 percent were current illicit drug users, which was higher than the 8.0 percent of those employed full time and 10.2 percent of those employed part time. However, most illicit drug users were employed. Of the 17.8 million current illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2008, 12.9 million (72.7 percent) were employed either full or part time. The number of unemployed illicit drug users increased from 1.3 million in 2007 to 1.8 million in 2008, primarily because of an overall increase in the number of unemployed persons.
  • In 2008, 10.0 million persons aged 12 or older reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the past year. This corresponds to 4.0 percent of the population aged 12 or older, the same as the rate in 2007 (4.0 percent), but lower than the rate in 2002 (4.7 percent). In 2008, the rate was highest among young adults aged 18 to 25 (12.3 percent).

Dependence on or Abuse of Specific Illicit Drugs in the Past Year among Persons Aged 12 or Older: 2008

Addiction-Treatment

Data are presented for racial/ethnic groups based on current guidelines for collecting and reporting race and ethnicity data (Office of Management and Budget [OMB], 1997). Because respondents were allowed to choose more than one racial group, a “two or more races” category is presented that includes persons who reported more than one category among the basic groups listed in the survey question (white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander, Asian, Other). Respondents choosing both Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander but no other categories mentioned above are classified in the combined “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander” category instead of the “two or more race” category. It should be noted that, except for the “Hispanic or Latino” group, the racial/ethnic groups discussed in this report include only non-Hispanics. The category “Hispanic or Latino” includes Hispanics of any race.

Data also are presented for four U.S. geographic regions and nine geographic divisions within these regions. These regions and divisions, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, consist of the following groups of States:

Northeast Region – New England Division: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont; Middle Atlantic Division: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania.

Midwest Region – East North Central Division: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin; West North Central Division: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota.

South Region – South Atlantic Division: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia; East South Central Division: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee; West South Central Division: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas.

West Region – Mountain Division: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming; Pacific Division: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington.