The number of users of marijuana in America rose from 14.4 million in 2007 to 17.4 million in 2010, while the numbers of methamphetamine users aged 12+ years dropped from 731,000 in 2006 to 353,000 in 2010. Illicit drug usage overall rose between 2008 and 2010, according to a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) national survey.

The survey revealed that 22.6 million individuals in the USA aged 12 years or more were illicit drug users in 2010; a similar rate to the year before, but higher than in 2008.

The main factor to push up overall figures was marijuana usage, the authors explained. From 2007 to 2010 the proportion of people aged 12 years or more to use marijuana rose from 5.8% to 6.9%.

Below are some highlighted details of the survey:

  • Illicit drug usage among people aged 18-25 years rose from 19.6% to 21.2% from 2008 to 2010 (marijuana usage increase was main factor)
  • Non-medical use of prescription medicals, inhalants and hallucinogens were at similar levels in 2002, 2009 and 2010
  • 55% of people over 12 years of age who used prescription pain relievers for non-medical reasons during the previous 12 months, got them from a relative or friend for free
  • Just 4.4% of pain reliever misusers received them from a drug dealer and 0.4% bought them online
  • The number of methamphetamine users dropped by half from 2006 (353,000) to 2010 (731,000).
  • Cocaine usage fell from 2.4 million users in 2006 to 1.5 million in 2010
  • Drinking (alcohol) rates among 12-17 year olds fell from 14.7% in 2009 to 13.6% in 2010
  • In 2010 about 23.1 million people in the USA aged 12+ years needed specialized substance abuse treatment. However, only 2.6 million received it. i.e. only 11.2% of those who needed help, got it.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, said:

“We stand at a crossroads in our nation’s efforts to prevent substance abuse and addiction. These statistics represent real lives that are at risk from the harmful and sometimes devastating effects of illicit drug use. This nation cannot afford to risk losing more individuals, families and communities to illicit drugs or from other types of substance abuse – instead, we must do everything we can to effectively promote prevention, treatment and recovery programs across our country.”

Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, said:

“Emerging research reveals potential links between state laws permitting access to smoked medical marijuana and higher rates of marijuana use. In light of what we know regarding the serious harm of illegal drug use, I urge every family – but particularly those in states targeted by pro-drug political campaigns – to redouble their efforts to shield young people from serious harm by educating them about the real health and safety consequences caused by illegal drug use.”

NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) includes details on 67,500 individuals aged 12 years or more throughout the USA.

Written by Christian Nordqvist