Text Only | SAMHSA News Home

SAMHSA News - July/August 2005, Volume 13, Number 4

Youth Drug Use Continues To Decline

SAMHSA recently released new findings that show a 9-percent decline in illicit drug use among American youth between age 12 and 17 from 2002 to 2004. Marijuana use also declined by 7 percent among young adults between age 18 and 25 during this same period.

The findings are from SAMHSA's 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) released at the annual National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month press conference on September 8.

SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie presents findings from 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Director H. Westley Clark (left) look on with presenters Carrick Forbes and Diedre Drohan Forbes (seated)

SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie presented the findings from SAMHSA's 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and launched the Agency's 16th annual Recovery Month. SAMHSA's Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., left, looks on with presenters Carrick Forbes and Diedre Drohan Forbes (seated). Photo by A. Martín Castillo

Marijuana, according to the survey, continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug, with a rate of 6.1 percent (14.6 million current users) for the U.S. population age 12 and older.

Overall, findings show that 19.1 million Americans, or 7.9 percent of the population age 12 and older, were current illicit drug users—meaning that they used an illicit drug in the past month. This rate was similar to the rates seen in 2002 and 2003, or approximately 8 percent of the population age 12 and older.

Particularly striking was a decline in current use—defined as use in the past month—of marijuana among boys age 12 to 17, from 9.1 percent in 2002 down to 8.1 percent in 2004. But marijuana use by girls in that age group did not decline and remained at about 7 percent.

Similarly, for 18- to 25-year-olds, the cohort with the highest illicit drug use rates, there were declines in current marijuana use from 17.3 percent in 2002 to 16.1 percent in 2004, and use of hallucinogens from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 1.5 percent in 2004.

"Our partnerships and the work of prevention professionals, schools, parents, teachers, law enforcement, religious leaders, and local community anti-drug coalitions are paying off," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.

An area of concern is the increasing non-medical use of prescription medications among young adults. The 2004 survey shows about 6 percent of young adults used medications non-medically in the past month, and 29 percent had used them in their lifetime.

From 2002 to 2004, there was an increase in lifetime prevalence of non-medical use of narcotic pain relievers in the 18- to 25-year-old age group, from 22 percent to 24 percent. Hydrocodone and oxycodone products showed increases in lifetime use among young adults age 18 to 25.

Back to Top

More Survey Findings

Marijuana. Among persons age 12 or older who used illicit drugs, 56.8 percent used only marijuana, 19.7 percent used marijuana and some other drug, and 23.6 percent used only a drug other than marijuana. An estimated 8.2 million persons (3.4 percent of the population age 12 and older) were current users of illicit drugs other than marijuana in 2004.

Prescription Drugs. In 2004, most of the people using drugs other than marijuana used psychotherapeutic drugs non-medically (6.0 million, or 2.5 percent of the population).

There were an estimated 4.4 million current users of narcotic pain relievers, 1.6 million users of tranquilizers, 1.2 million used stimulants, and 0.3 million used sedatives. These estimates are all similar to the estimates for 2003.

The drug category with the largest number of recent initiates in 2004 was non-medical use of pain relievers (2.4 million new users), followed by marijuana (2.1 million new users), non-medical use of tranquilizers (1.2 million new users), and cocaine (1.0 million new users).

Methamphetamine. Use of methamphetamine remained unchanged from 2002 to 2004 at approximately 5-percent lifetime use and 0.6-percent past-year use, and 0.2 percent for current use. In 2004, 583,000 persons were current users of methamphetamine and 1.4 million persons age 12 and older used methamphetamine in the past year. The rates of use declined among young people age 12 to 17.

Cocaine. In 2004, there were an estimated 2.0 million current cocaine users, 0.8 percent of the population age 12 and older. Of these, 467,000 used crack in the past month (0.2 percent). These estimates are similar to those in 2002 and 2003. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, past-year use of cocaine fell 8 percent between 2002 and 2004.

Heroin. Heroin was used by 0.1 percent of the population age 12 and older in the past month in 2004. There were 166,000 current heroin users. This is similar to 2002 and 2003. Lifetime heroin use fell 16 percent (from 3.7 million individuals to 3.1 million) between 2003 and 2004.

Alcohol. More than one-fifth (22.8 percent) of persons age 12 or older (55 million people) participated in binge drinking at least once in the 30 days prior to being surveyed in 2004. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the past 30 days. These figures are similar to estimates in 2002 and 2003.

In 2004, about 10.8 million underage persons age 12 to 20 (28.7 percent) reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Nearly 7.4 million were binge drinkers (19.6 percent), and 2.4 million were heavy drinkers (6.3 million). These figures were similar to the 2002 and 2003 estimates.

Among young adults age 18 to 25, 41.2 percent engaged in binge drinking and 15.1 percent in heavy alcohol use. The rate of binge and heavy drinking in 2004 peaked at age 21.

SAMHSA is preparing to launch a major campaign against underage drinking this fall.

Prevention Measures. In 2004, 60.3 percent of youth age 12 to 17 reported that they had talked at least once in the past year with at least one of their parents about the dangers of drug, tobacco, or alcohol use. This rate represents an increase from the 2003 rate of 58.9 percent and the 2002 rate of 58.1 percent. Among youth who reported having had such conversations with their parents, rates of current alcohol and cigarette use and past year and lifetime use of alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs were lower than among youth who did not report such conversations.

Need for Treatment. In 2004, the estimated number of persons age 12 or older needing treatment for an alcohol or illicit drug use problem was 23.5 million (9.8 percent of the total population). The estimated number of persons needing but not receiving treatment for a substance use problem was slightly higher in 2004 (21.1 million) than in 2003 (20.3 million), but this difference was not statistically significant.

Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Illness. In 2004, adults who used illicit drugs in the past year were more than twice as likely to have serious psychological distress than those who did not use an illicit drug (20.6 percent vs. 8.3 percent). This pattern has remained stable since 2002 and was reflected in most demographic subgroups.

Among adults with serious psychological distress, 27.6 percent used an illicit drug in the past year compared with 11.8 percent among those without serious psychological distress.

In 2004, almost half (47.5) percent of adults with both serious psychological distress and a substance use disorder received no treatment for either problem.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is an annual survey of close to 70,000 people. The survey collects information from residents of households, residents of non-institutionalized group quarters, and civilians living on military bases.

Past-Month Use of Selected Illicit Drugs Among Youth Age 12 to 17: 2002-2004

chart of Past-Month Use of Selected Illicit Drugs Among Youth Age 12 to 17 - Click to view text only versiond

Source: SAMHSA Office of Applied Studies. Overview of Findings From the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, page 12.

For a copy of the survey or the overview, contact SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20847-2345. Telephone: 1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD). The survey is also available online on the SAMHSA Web site at www.oas.samhsa.gov/nsduh.htm#NSDUHinfo. Electronic versions of Recovery Month materials are available at www.recoverymonth.govEnd of Article

Back to Top

Recovery Month - click to view Recovery Month Web site

Recovery Month is observed annually in September to recognize the accomplishments of people in recovery, the contributions of treatment providers, and advances in substance abuse treatment. This year is the 16th annual observance. The theme, "Join the Voices for Recovery—Healing Lives, Families and Communities," emphasizes that addiction to alcohol and drugs is a chronic, but treatable, public health problem that affects everyone in the community. End of Article

See Also—Previous Article

See Also—Next Article »

Back to Top


skip navigation

Katrina Response and Recovery - click to view SAMHSA's Matrix: Disaster Readiness & Response

Inside This Issue

Recovery Is Key for Mental Health Action Agenda
Part 1
Part 2

From the Administrator: Transforming Our Vision

Hurricane Katrina

Medicare Web Page Available

2005 Grant Awards

SAMHSA Supports Efforts To Prevent Suicide

Recovery Month: Youth Drug Use Continues to Decline

Teens Respond to Prevention Messages

Buprenorphine Update

Tribes Weave Visions for Healthy Future

Tribes, Agencies Look to One Sky Center

Retailers Cut Cigarette Sales to Youth

Tip 44: Adult Offenders in Criminal Justice System

New Multi-Language Publications

Public Comments Requested on National Registry

Practice Improvement Collaboratives Report

SAMHSA News

SAMHSA News - September/October 2005, Volume 13, Number 5




SAMHSA Contracts | SAMHSA's Budget | Employment | Site Map
 SAMHSA Home  Contact the Staff  Accessibility  Privacy Policy  Freedom of Information Act
 Disclaimer  Department of Health and Human Services  The White House  First Gov