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Drugs and Crime Facts

Drug use

Youth | General population | Workplace


Youth

Use

The Monitoring the Future Study asked high school seniors, "On how many occasions, if any, have you used drugs or alcohol during the last 12 months or month?"

Reported drug and alcohol use by high school seniors, 2008

  Used within the last:
 
Drugs 12 months* 30 days

Alcohol 65.5 % 43.1 %
Marijuana 32.4   19.4  
Other opiates 9.1   3.8  
Stimulants 6.8   2.9  
Tranquilizers 6.2   2.6  
Hallucinogens 5.9   2.2  
Sedatives 5.8   2.8  
Cocaine 4.4   1.9  
Inhalants 3.8   1.4  
Steroids 1.5   1.0  
Heroin 0.7   0.4  

*Including the last month.
Source: Press release: Various stimulant drugs show continuing gradual declines among teens in 2008, most illicit drugs hold steady, University of Michigan News and Information Services, December 11, 2008. (Acrobat file 767.5 KB)

Self-reports of drug use among high school seniors may under represent drug use among youth of that age because high school dropouts and truants are not included, and these groups may have more involvement with drugs than those who stay in school.

Percent of all college students, 1996-2007

Drug use 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006   2007  

Marijuana
Daily within
last month
2.8 % 3.7 % 4.0 % 4.0 % 4.6 % 4.5 % 4.1 % 4.7 % 4.5 % 4.0 % 4.3 % 3.5 %
Last month 17.5 17.7 18.6 20.7 20.0 20.2 19.7 19.3 18.9   17.1 16.7   16.8  
Last year 33.1 31.6 35.9 35.2 34.0 35.6 34.7 33.7 33.3  
33.3
30.2
 
31.8
 
Cocaine
Daily within
last month
0.0 % 0.0 % 0.0 % 0.0 % 0.0 % 0.0 % 0.0 % * % 0.0   0.1 % * % * %
Last month 0.8 1.6 1.6 1.2 1.4 1.9 1.6 1.9 2.4 1.8 1.8 1.7
Last year 2.9 3.4 4.6 4.6 4.8 4.7 4.8 5.4 6.6 5.7 5.1 5.4

* Less than 0.05%
                                         

Rates of past year cocaine use by college students have varied over the past 11 years from a low of 2.9% in 1996 to a high of 5.4% in 2007. Past year marijuana use has ranged from a low of 33.1% in 1996 to a high of 35.9% in 1998.

Source: University of Michigan, Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975-2007, Volume II: College Students and Adults Ages 19-45, 2007, October 2008. (Acrobat file 2.13 MB)

Of high school seniors in 2008 --

The increase in the use of marijuana has been especially pronounced. Between 1992 and 2008 past-month use of marijuana increased from:

  • 12% to 19% among high school seniors.
  • 8% to 14% among 10th graders.
  • 4% to 6% among 8th graders.
Reported use of marijuana by high school seniors during the past month peaked in 1978 at 37% and declined to its lowest level in 1992 at 12%.

The use of cocaine within the past month of the survey by high school seniors peaked in 1985 at 6.7%, up from 1.9% in 1975 at the survey's inception. Cocaine use declined to a low of 1.3% in 1992 and 1993. In 2008, 1.9% of high school seniors reported past-month cocaine use.

Source: University of Michigan, Monitoring the Future National Results on Adolescent Drug Use: Overview of Key Findings 2008, May 2009. (Acrobat file 971.57 KB)..

Cocaine use among high school seniors peaked in 1985.

Percent of HS seniors who used cocaine [D]

Click on the chart to view the data.
Source: Press release:Various stimulant drugs show continuing gradual declines among teens in 2008, most illicit drugs hold steady, University of Michigan News and Information Services, December 11, 2008. (Acrobat file 767.5 KB)

Perceived risk

From 1988 to 2008 the percentage of high school seniors that were asked, "How much do you think people risk harming themselves?" remained virtually stable. Those students answering "great risk" in regular use accounted for the following --

Perceived risk of drug use, 1987-2006 [D]

Click on the chart to view the data.

Source: Press release:Various stimulant drugs show continuing gradual declines among teens in 2008, most illicit drugs hold steady, University of Michigan News and Information Services, December 11, 2008. (Acrobat file 767.5 KB)

Student reports of availability of drugs

Percent of high school seniors reporting they could obtain drugs fairly easily or very easily, 2008

Marijuana 83.9 %
Amphetamines 47.9  
Cocaine 42.4  
Barbiturates 38.8  
Crack 35.2  
LSD 28.5  
Heroin 25.4  
Crystal methamphetamine 23.3  
Tranquilizers 22.4  
PCP 20.6  
Amyl/butyl nitrites 16.9  
Source: Press release: Various stimulant drugs show continuing gradual declines among teens in 2008, most illicit drugs hold steady, University of Michigan News and Information Services, December 11, 2008. (Acrobat file 767.5 KB)

In 2007, 22% of all students in grades 9 through 12 reported someone had offered, sold, or given them an illegal drug on school property. There was no measurable change with the percentage of students who reported that drugs were offered, sold, or given to them at school between 2003 and 2007.

Males were more likely than females to report that drugs were offered, sold, or given to them on school property in each survey year between 1993 and 2007. In 2007, 26% of males and 19% of females reported availability of drugs.

Source: BJS jointly with the U.S. Department of Education, Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2008, NCJ 228478, December 2009.

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General population

According to data from the 2007 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) --

  • 114 million Americans age 12 or older (46% of the population) reported illicit drug use at least once in their lifetime
  • 14% reported use of a drug within the past year
  • 8% reported use of a drug within the past month.
Data from the 2007 survey showed that marijuana and cocaine use is the most prevalent among persons age 18 to 25.

    Age of respondent, 2006
   
Drug use 12-17 18-25 26 or older

Marijuana            
  Last month 6.7 % 16.4 % 3.9 %
  Last year 12.5   27.5   6.8  
Cocaine            
  Last month 0.4 % 1.7 % 0.7 %
  Last year 1.5   6.4   1.7  

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, September 2008.

 

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) monitors drug-related emergency department (ED) visits for the nation and for selected metropolitan areas. DAWN also collects data on drug-related deaths investigated by medical examiners and coroners in selected metropolitan areas and states. DAWN is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

In 2006, DAWN estimates that 1.7 million emergency visits (ED) were nationwide were associated with drug misuse or abuse.

An estimated 958,164 drug-related emergency department visits involved an illicit drug. Thus, over half (55%) of all the drug misuse/abuse ED visits during the year involved an illicit drug either alone or in combination with other types of drugs. DAWN estimates that:

  • Cocaine was involved in 548,608 ED visits.
  • Marijuana was involved in 290,563 ED visits.
  • Heroin was involved in 189,780 ED visits.
  • Stimulants, including amphetamines and methamphetamine, were involved in 107,575 ED visits.
  • Other illicit drugs, such as PCP, Ecstacy, and GHB, were much less frequent than any of the above.

Source: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2006: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. Rockville, MD, 2008.


A DAWN case is any death reviewed by a medical examiner/coroner (ME/C) that was related to recent drug use. DAWN data include deaths related to drug use, misuse, and abuse and drug-related suicides that were reported by participating death investigation jurisdictions as DAWN cases.

In 2005, 169 jurisdictions in 51 metropolitan areas and 217 jurisdictions in 8 States submitted mortality data to DAWN. The states are Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Vermont. DAWN cannot provide national estimates of drug-related deaths.

Descriptions of drug-related deaths in the participation metropolitan areas and States are available in Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2005: Area Profiles of Drug-Related Mortality.

In areas that participated in DAWN in both 2004 and 2005, there were increases in drug-related deaths in 19 metropolitan areas and in 5 States. Decreases were reported from 6 metropolitan areas and 1 State (table 3).

Source: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2005: Area Profiles of Drug-Related Mortality. Rockville, MD, May 2009.

Workplace

A study focusing on findings from the 2002 through 2004 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that --

  • 9.4 million (8.2%) of full-time workers were illicit drug users
  • 57.5% of illicit drug users, aged 18 to 64, were employed full-time
  • Nearly one out of five (19%) workers aged 18 to 25 used illicit drugs during the past month. This was a higher percentage than among the 26 to 34 (10.3%), 35 to 49 (7%), and 50 to 64 (2.6%) age groups.

Drug testing

  • A total of 32 million (29.6%) of full-time workers in the United States reported random drug testing in their current employment setting during the study period.
  • For each age group, past month illicit drug users were less likely than nonusers to report working for employers who conducted prehire drug or alcohol tests; ages 18 to 25 (29.4 vs. 41.3%); 26 to 34 (32.0 vs. 45.8%), 35 to 49 (34.2 vs. 45.5%), and 50 to 64 (31.3 vs. 41%).

Occupations

  • Illicit drug use among full-time employees were most prevalent in food preparation and serving-related occupations (17.4%), followed by construction and extraction occupations (15.1%).
  • Among full-time workers, those in protective services occupations were least likely to be illicit drug users (3.4%).

Source: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs. DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 07-4273, Analytic Series A-29, Rockville, MD, 2007.



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