How many Americans use illegal drugs?

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 10-9-10

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 10-9-10. http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3098

Question of the Week: How many Americans use illegal drugs?

In 1992, Congress established the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMSHA’s Office of Applied Studies collects, analyzes, and disseminates public health data including the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This survey, fielded since 1971, reports the prevalence of illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use in the civilian, non-institutionalized US population aged 12 or older.

The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report was released in mid-September. Those quoting it should make note of its “Limitations on Trend Measurement” section that reads,

“2002 and later data should not be compared with 2001 and earlier data from the survey series to assess changes over time.”

Anyone who makes such comparisons is misrepresenting SAMSHA data.

The Drug Usage Chapter of Drug War Facts now contains three tables based on post-2001 SAMSHA data.

The first table displays the percentage change in use by substance from 2002 to 2006 (at the five year mark) and from 2002-2009 to reflect the most current trends. Overall illicit use has increased by almost 12% since 2002.

The second table shows values for Estimated Lifetime use by substance from 2002 to 2009. Lifetime use means trying a drug at least once. About 119 million Americans have used an illicit substance at least once.

The third table reflects the estimated number of individuals who have used an illicit substance at least once per month. Called “Current users,” an estimated 22 million Americans used illegal drugs at least once per month in 2009.

These facts and others like them can be found in the Drug Usage Chapter of Drug War Facts at http://www.drugwarfacts.org.

Questions concerning these or other facts concerning drug policy can be e-mailed to mjborden@drugwarfacts.org