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)

The Relationship between Age of First Drug Use and Future Treatment Needs

Early alcohol and drug prevention efforts and enhanced treatment options for youth may play a key role in reducing the likelihood of future substance abuse according to a new brief from SAMHSA. The report, Age of Substance Use Initiation among Treatment Admissions Aged 18-to-30, presents data that suggest the age of first drug use is associated with need for treatment later in life; specifically, persons reporting an earlier age of initiation were 1) more likely to be admitted to treatment and 2) abuse multiple substances. In 2011, nearly three-quarters of the 18-to-30 year olds admitted for substance abuse treatment began using when under the age of 17, 34 percent between the ages of 15-17, 30 percent between the ages of 12-14, and 10 percent at age 11 and under. Of those who began using substances at age 11 or younger, 78 percent reported abusing at least two substances at the time of intake.

Other interesting takeaways from the report:

  • 63 percent of treatment admissions of people 18 to 30 years old were male, and males were more likely than females to start using substances at earlier ages
  • Among those reporting first drug use at 11 or younger, marijuana and alcohol were the most commonly used substances
  • Among those reporting first drug use at age 25 or over, heroin and prescription pain medication were the most commonly used substances
  • Nearly 39 percent of the persons admitted to treatment whom first used a substance at age 11 or younger reported a co-occurring mental disorder – the highest rate of any of the age groups

As the age of  first use of drugs or alcohol increases, the number of substances abused at time of admission to addiction treatment declines. The authors also  note that adolescents can grow into habitual abuse of alcohol and drugs within three years of initiation. These data indicate the need for continuous but targeted preventative interventions with elementary-to-middle-school-age students. For example, the risk factors for young children are usually related to the family, whereas adolescents may experience ongoing pressure from peers who use illegal substances, so strategies to address these factors while building up protective factors will also vary.

Information on drug prevention programs and resource guides for parents and teachers are available at the SAMHSA website.

 

 

 

Report Citation:  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (July 17, 2014).The TEDS Report: Age of Substance Use Initiation among Treatment Admissions Aged 18 to 30. Rockville, MD.

Is Prescription Drug Abuse on the Decline?

Recreational use of controlled prescription drugs is second only to marijuana in popularity among drug-using Americans, and accounts for tens of thousands of substance abuse treatment admissions over the past decade.  Psychiatric medications (benzodiazepines) oft prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and other medical conditions and pain-killers were the most common duo of prescription drugs reported by those seeking addiction treatment, resulting in a 570 percent increase in patient intakes between the years of 2000 and 2010.  However, a new report from the  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates a national decrease in nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

According to the report, State Estimates of Nonmedical Use of Prescription Pain Relievers, based on data from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), seven states with the highest rates of nonmedical prescription drug use were in the western region of the country, while states from the midwest and south made up the majority of those with the lowest rates.  Pennsylvania was slightly below (4.2 percent) the 2011 national rate of 4.6 percent of residents reporting past year recreational use of controlled pain relievers. Both rates decreased between 2009 and 2011.  Percentages by state and age group are available on the SAMHSA website.

Initiatives focused on medical staff and patient education and enforcement strategies may be having an impact on the prevalence of prescription drug abuse.  If adopted, recently proposed regulations to the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 aimed at enhancing the ease and security of medication disposal may also contribute to a further decline of usage rates.  But is it merely an issue of easy access, or are prescriptions from doctors assumed to be safer than “street” drugs?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study Citation: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (January 8, 2013). The NSDUH Report: State Estimates of Nonmedical Use of Prescription Pain Relievers. Rockville, MD.

SAMHSA Report: Marijuana, Heroin Use Up Overall but Fewer Youth Using Painkillers Recreationally

If you run (or write grants for) programs dealing with drug use and/or prevention you may be interested in the new report discussing the results of the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The annual survey examines use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products using a sample of persons living in the United States who are over 12 years of age and not in the military or an institution of some sort.

According to the 2011 data, the rate of current (defined as within the past 30 days)  drug use among persons aged 12 or older did not change much overall compared to the rate from the prior year (8.7 percent versus 8.9 percent). The most commonly used drug was marijuana, with an increased rate of use  of 7 percent in 2011, up from 5.8  percent in 2010.

Among youths aged 12 to 17 years, the rate of current  illicit drug use remained stable at approximately 10 percent between 2010 and 2011, but was still higher than the 2008 rate of 9.3 percent.  There has been no decline in marijuana use among this population since 2006.  Among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate of current non-medical use of prescription drugs declined from 4 percent in 2002 to 2.8 percent in 2011.

Persons over the age of 12 who reported trying a new drug in the last year most often used marijuana, followed by the non-medical use of painkillers.  Among those who reported recreational (non-medical) use of pain relievers in the past 12 months, over 54 percent obtained them through a friend or relative for no cost, while just over 18 percent reported they were prescribed the drug by a doctor.  Less than 4 percent procured painkillers from an unknown person (stranger) or drug dealer.

Over 6 percent of the population reported drinking heavily in 2011, a drop of nearly half a percent. The rate of current alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17 remained stable at 13.3 percent in 2011 (13.6 percent in 2010) as did their rates for binge drinking and heavy drinking. Among underage drinkers, their last experience with alcohol was most likely in someone else’s home (57 percent) while 28.2 percent reported last drinking in their residence.

Between 2002 and 2010, the count of persons reporting substance dependence or abuse fluctuated little (from 21.6 million to 22.7 million) and dropped slightly in 2011  to 22.2 million. Marijuana (used by 4.2 million), non-medical use of pain relievers (used by 1.8 million), and cocaine (used by 0.8 million) had the highest rates of dependence or abuse reported in the last year.  An interesting, and disturbing, trend – the number of people reporting heroin dependence/abuse  nearly doubled between 2007 (214,000) and 2011 (426,000).    Heroin use is growing in popularity  (620,000 past year users in 2011 compared to  373,000 in 2007 according to the survey data) and is expanding out of urban areas, possibly in response to the crackdown on prescription drug availability and abuse and the reformulation of some highly addictive pain relievers.

 

The report is available for download at the SAMHSA website.

 

 

Report Citation:  Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-44, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4713. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012.