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Illicit Drug Use

This report presents the first information from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The survey 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. The survey interviews approximately 67,500 persons each year. Unless otherwise noted, all comparisons in this report described using terms such as "increased," "decreased," or "more than" are statistically significant at the .05 level.

  • In 2006, an estimated 20.4 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 8.3?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 2006 (8.3?percent) was similar to the rate in 2005 (8.1?percent).

  • Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug (14.8 million past month users). Among persons aged 12 or older, the rate of past month marijuana use was the same in 2006 (6.0?percent) as in 2005.

  • In 2006, there were 2.4 million current cocaine users aged 12 or older, which was the same as in 2005 but greater than in 2002 when the number was 2.0 million. However, the rate of current cocaine use remained stable between 2002 and 2006.

  • Hallucinogens were used in the past month by 1.0 million persons (0.4?percent) aged 12 or older in 2006, including 528,000 (0.2?percent) who had used Ecstasy. These estimates are similar to the corresponding estimates for 2005.

  • There were 7.0 million (2.8?percent) persons aged 12 or older who used prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically in the past month. Of these, 5.2 million used pain relievers, an increase from 4.7 million in 2005.

  • In 2006, there were an estimated 731,000 current users of methamphetamine aged 12 or older (0.3?percent of the population). These estimates do not differ significantly from estimates for 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 and are all based on new survey items added to NSDUH in 2006 to improve the reporting of methamphetamine use. These improved estimates should not be compared with estimates of methamphetamine use shown in prior NSDUH reports.

  • Among youths aged 12 to 17, current illicit drug use rates remained stable from 2005 to 2006. However, youth rates declined significantly between 2002 and 2006 for illicit drugs in general (from 11.6 to 9.8?percent) and for several specific drugs, including marijuana, hallucinogens, LSD, Ecstasy, prescription-type drugs used nonmedically, pain relievers, tranquilizers, and the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana.

  • The rate of current marijuana use among youths aged 12 to 17 declined from 8.2?percent in 2002 to 6.7?percent in 2006. Among male youths, the rate declined from 9.1 to 6.8?percent, but among female youths the rates in 2002 (7.2?percent) and 2006 (6.4?percent) were not significantly different.

  • There were no significant changes in past month use of any drugs among young adults aged 18 to 25 between 2005 and 2006. The rate of past year use increased for Ecstasy (from 3.1 to 3.8?percent) and decreased for inhalants (2.1 to 1.8?percent).

  • From 2002 to 2006, the rate of current use of marijuana among young adults aged 18 to 25 declined from 17.3 to 16.3?percent. Past month nonmedical use of prescription-type drugs among young adults increased from 5.4?percent in 2002 to 6.4?percent in 2006. This was primarily due to an increase in the rate of pain reliever use, which was 4.1?percent in 2002 and 4.9?percent in 2006. However, nonmedical use of tranquilizers also increased over the 5-year period (from 1.6 to 2.0?percent).

  • Among persons aged 12 or older who used pain relievers nonmedically in the past 12 months, 55.7?percent reported that the source of the drug the most recent time they used was from a friend or relative for free. Another 19.1?percent reported they got the drug from just one doctor. Only 3.9?percent got the pain relievers from a drug dealer or other stranger, and only 0.1?percent reported buying the drug on the Internet. Among those who reported getting the pain reliever from a friend or relative for free, 80.7?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 2006, 18.5?percent were current illicit drug users, which was higher than the 8.8?percent of those employed full time and 9.4?percent of those employed part time. However, most drug users were employed. Of the 17.9 million current illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2006, 13.4 million (74.9?percent) were employed either full or part time.

  • In 2006, there were 10.2 million persons aged 12 or older who reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the past year. This corresponds to 4.2?percent of the population aged 12 or older, similar to the rate in 2005 (4.3?percent), but lower than the rate in 2002 (4.7?percent). In 2006, the rate was highest among young adults aged 18 to 25 (13.0?percent).

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