Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

The misuse and abuse of alcohol, over-the-counter medications, illicit drugs, and tobacco affect the health and well-being of millions of Americans.


According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – 2014 (PDF | 3.4 MB), about two-thirds (66.6%) of people aged 12 or older reported in 2014 that they drank alcohol in the past 12 months, with 6.4% meeting criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Also among Americans aged 12 or older, the use of illicit drugs has increased over the last decade from 8.3% of the population using illicit drugs in the past month in 2002 to 10.2% (27 million people) in 2014. Of those, 7.1 million people met criteria for an illicit drug use disorder in the past year. The misuse of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana as the nation’s most common drug problem after alcohol and tobacco, leading to troubling increases in opioid overdoses in the past decade. An estimated 25.2% (66.9 million) of Americans aged 12 or older were current users of a tobacco product. While tobacco use has declined since 2002 for the general population, this has not been the case for people with serious mental illness where tobacco use remains a major cause of morbidity and early death.

Additional data from SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Barometer – 2014 (PDF | 3.9 MB) show that:

  • Men reported higher rates of illicit drug dependence than women, 3.8% to 1.9%.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of illicit drug dependence at 6%, followed by African Americans at 3.6%. Asian Americans reported the lowest rate at 1%.
  • About 14% of adults with illicit drug dependence reported receiving treatment in the past year, which did not vary by gender.
  • Each year, approximately 5,000 youth under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking.
  • In 2012, 58.3% of people who tried alcohol for the first time were younger than 18.
  • More than 50% of people aged 12 or older in 2011-2012 who used pain relievers for non-medical reasons in the past year got them from a friend or relative.

For information about SAMHSA’s prevention and treatment efforts, see the topics Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness and Behavioral Health Treatments and Services.

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SAMHSA’s Efforts

To learn more about SAMHSA’s work on alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery, visit these other topics:

For information on SAMHSA’s campaigns and programs, including tools and resources to prevent alcohol abuse, tobacco use, and other drug use, visit:

Last Updated: 10/30/2015