A Breakdown of Drug and Alcohol Usage in America

In 2013, 56% of adults in America classified themselves as "current drinkers", 24.6% reported that they were "binge drinkers".
In 2013, 56% of adults in America classified themselves as “current drinkers”, 24.6% reported that they were “binge drinkers”.

Alcohol consumption statistics have received much attention of late thanks to a Washington Post Wonkblog post citing material from the book Paying the Tab by Philip J. Cook and data from The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).  Those interested in alcohol consumption trends by adolescents and adults might also want to peruse the findings from the  National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual source of estimates on drug and alcohol use (although some categories are defined differently than those used by the NIAAA) and mental health in the United States.

According to a brief summarizing 2013 NSDUH data from the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), last year more than half of Americans 12-years-and-over (52.2 percent) reported currently using alcohol, with approximately 23 percent classified as binge drinkers (defined as 5 or more drinks in one occasion).  Just over 6 percent self-reported as heavy drinkers – 16.2 million adults and 293,000 12-to-17 year-olds.  However, the use of alcohol within the past month and binge drinking both decreased among the 12-to-17-year-old group compared to 2012 data, from 12.9 percent to 11.6 percent and 7.2 percent to 6.2 percent, respectively.

Regarding drug use, 9.4 percent of adults used illicit drugs in 2013 with marijuana (7.6 percent), non-medical use of prescription drugs (1.7 percent)  and cocaine (0.6 percent) as the top three drugs currently used. Among adolescents, 8.8 percent reported currently using drugs. Again, marijuana (7.1 percent) and non-medical use of prescriptions (2.2 percent) were the most popular currently used illicit substances,  followed by hallucinogens (0.6) and inhalants (0.5).

Some of the reasons for not receiving drug and/or alcohol treatment by those who attempted to secure it (based on 2010-2013 data) include

  • lack of health care coverage or inability to afford the cost – 37.3 percent,
  • not ready to stop usage – 24.5 percent,
  • unsure of where to find treatment – 9 percent, and
  • health coverage that did not include rehabilitation – 8.2 percent.

The brief Substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the 2013 National Survey in Drug Use and Health: Overview of Findings also contains data on the prevalence of mental and behavioral health issues among both adults and adolescents, including co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.



Citation: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (September 4, 2014). The NSDUH Report: Substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the
2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Overview of Findings. Rockville, MD.

Photo Credit: M. Puzzanchera (Own Work) (CC By-NC-ND 3.0)