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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Oct. 4, 2001

Contact: SAMHSA Press Office (301) 443-8956


HHS Report Shows Drug Use Rates Stable, Youth Tobacco Use Declines



HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today released findings of the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse showing that overall rates of current use of illicit drugs were relatively unchanged, although drug use did decline among early teenagers and cigarette use dropped among teens and young adults.

Among youths aged 12 to 17, 9.7 percent reported current illicit drug use in 2000, meaning they used an illicit drug at least once during the 30 days prior to the time of the survey interview. This compares to a 9.8 percent rate in 1999. The survey also showed that current cigarette use declined between 1999 and 2000 among youths aged 12 to 17 and young adults aged 18 to 25.

Leading indicators for drug use - including rates of use among the youngest age group and the number of new users - suggest possible future declines. Among youths aged 12 and 13, a key target audience of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the rate of past month illicit drug use declined from 3.9 percent in 1999 to 3.0 percent in 2000. The estimated number of new marijuana users has declined from a recent peak of 2.6 million in 1996 to 2 million in 1999. Illicit drug use includes marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants.

In the survey, 7.1 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 who indicated that their "parents would strongly disapprove if they tried marijuana once or twice" had used an illicit drug in the past month. But 31.2 percent of youth who thought their parents did not strongly disapprove reported use of an illicit drug in the past month.

"These findings offer hope that more and more young people are making the decision not to do drugs," Secretary Thompson said. "It is clear, parents have a key role in their child's decision. Strong anti-drug attitudes by parents are one of the most powerful influences on our children."

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse provides annual estimates of the prevalence of illicit drug, alcohol and tobacco use in the U. S. and monitors the trends in use over time. It is based on a representative sample of the U.S. population age 12 and older, including persons living in households and in some group quarters such as dormitories and homeless shelters. In 2000, interviews were conducted with over 71,000 individuals.

Patterns of drug use show substantial variation by age. For example, 3.0 percent of youths aged 12 and 13 reported current illicit drug use in 2000. Among youth, rates increase with age, peaking in the age group 18 to 20 years (19.6 percent). Beyond age 20, the rates generally decline with increasing age. Adults age 40 to 44 years were an exception to this pattern, with rates higher than the 35- to 39- year- old age group. Members of this group of people in their early forties in 2000 were teenagers during the 1970s, the period when drug use incidence and prevalence rates were rising dramatically.

New use of cigarettes on a daily basis has decreased since its recent peak in 1997 at 1.9 million new users to 1.4 million in 1999. Translated to a per-day basis among youth under age 18, the number decreased from 3,186 youths per day who became daily smokers in 1997 to 2,145 per day in 1999 -- a 33 percent decline.

"For years we have heard that more than 3,000 young people each day become daily smokers. Over the past two years we have seen that number decline by a third," Secretary Thompson said. "This change reflects years of public and private sector anti-tobacco efforts and will pay off in terms of millions of lives spared from the ravages of cigarette smoking."

Current cigarette use declined between 1999 and 2000 among youths aged 12-17 and young adults aged 18 to 25. For youths, the rate of cigarette use declined from 14.9 percent in 1999 to 13.4 percent in 2000. This decrease was primarily a result of a decline among boys. Among youths the rate of smoking was higher for females, 14.1 percent, than males, 12.8 percent, in 2000. The young adult rates of cigarette use declined from 39.7 percent in 1999 to 38.3 percent in 2000.

Approximately one-third of youth smokers (33.8 percent) reported buying cigarettes at a store where the clerk hands out the cigarettes. About two-thirds (65.2 percent) of youth smokers aged 12 to 17 reported that friends or relatives bought cigarettes for them at least one time in the past month.

The rate of alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 20 and the general population has remained relatively flat for the past several years. In 2000 about 9.7 million people aged 12 to 20, 27.5 percent of this age group, reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Of these, 6.6 million, 18.7 percent of persons aged 12 to 20, were binge drinkers and 2.1 million, 6.0 percent of persons aged 12 to 20, were heavy drinkers. Among people aged 12 to 20, past month alcohol use rates ranged from 13.5 percent for Asians to 30.7 percent for whites and 29.3 percent for American Indians and Alaska Natives, 24.8 percent for Hispanics, and 18.6 percent for African-Americans.

The rates and patterns of alcohol use show substantial variation by age. In 2000, prevalence of current alcohol use increased with age, from 2.4 percent at age 12 to a peak of 65.2 percent for persons 21 years old. Unlike prevalence patterns observed for cigarettes and illicit drugs, current alcohol use remained steady among older age groups. Full time college students aged 18 to 22 were more likely than their peers not enrolled full time in college to drink, binge drink and drink heavily.

Joseph H. Autry III, M.D., acting administrator of HHS' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which directs the annual survey, noted, "While the rates of drinking for all age groups have remained unchanged over the past several years, between 1999 and 2000, we are encouraged by the news that the rate of people driving under the influence of alcohol over the past year declined from 10.9 percent to 10.0 percent. The rate of people driving under the influence of drugs also declined from 3.4 percent in 1999 to 3.1 percent in 2000."

Dr. Autry also noted, "As we continue to fund and design prevention programs it is important to note abuse of one substance like marijuana often goes hand- in- hand with the use of other substances. For example, in 2000, 4.6 percent of nonsmokers aged 12 to 17 used illicit drugs, while 42.7 percent of youths who used cigarettes also reported current illicit drug use. The pattern was similar for alcohol use. Among youth who were heavy drinkers, 65.5 percent were also current illicit drug users. Among nondrinkers, only 4.2 percent were current drug users."

The national trend data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse are generally consistent with results from other HHS surveys. Both the Monitoring the Future Study and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey have shown a leveling or declining trend in illicit drug use, marijuana and cigarette use among adolescents since 1997, after a period of significant increases in the early 1990s.

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse provides annual estimates of the prevalence of illicit drug, alcohol and tobacco use in the U. S. and monitors the trends in use over time. It is based on a representative sample of the U.S. population aged 12 and older, including persons living in households and in some group quarters such as dormitories and homeless shelters.

Illicit Drug Use

In calendar year 2000, an estimated 14.0 million Americans were current illicit drug users. This estimate represents 6.3 percent of the population 12 years old and older.

As in prior years, men continued to have a higher rate of current illicit drug use than women (7.7 percent vs. 5.0 percent) in 2000. However, among youths aged 12 to 17 in 2000, the rate of current illicit drug use was similar for boys (9.8 percent) and girls (9.5 percent). While boys aged 12 to 17 had a slightly higher rate of marijuana use than girls in the same age category (7.7 percent compared to 6.6 percent), girls were somewhat more likely to use psychotherapeutics nonmedically than boys (3.3 percent compared to 2.7 percent).

Between 1999 and 2000, the rate of past month marijuana use among women aged 12 and older increased from 3.1 percent to 3.5 percent. This increase was primarily due to an increase in use among women aged 26 and older, from 1.4 percent in 1999 to 2.0 percent in 2000.

Approximately 2.1 million youths aged 12 to 17 had used inhalants at some time in their lives as of 2000. This constituted 8.9 percent of youths.

An estimated 15.4 percent of unemployed adults were current illicit drug users in 2000, compared with 6.3 percent of full-time employed adults and 7.8 percent of part-time employed adults. Of the 11.8 million adult illicit drug users in 2000, 9.1 million (77 percent) were employed either full time or part time.

In 2000, approximately 6.4 million people had tried ecstacy at least once in their lifetime. This is more than the estimated 5.1 million lifetime users in 1999.

Although the nonmedical use of Oxycontin was rare in 2000, the NHSDA data show evidence of an emerging problem. The estimated number of lifetime nonmedical Oxycontin users increased from 221,000 in 1999 to 399,000 in 2000.

Alcohol Use

Almost half of Americans aged 12 and older reported being current drinkers of alcohol in the 2000 survey (46.6 percent). This translates to an estimated 104 million people. Both the rate of alcohol use and number of drinkers were nearly the same in 2000 as in 1999 (46.4 percent and 103 million).

Heavy drinking was reported by 5.6 percent of the population aged 12 and older, or 12.6 million people. These 2000 estimates were nearly identical to the 1999 estimates.

Tobacco Use

An estimated 65.5 million Americans aged 12 and older (29.3 percent) reported current use of a tobacco product in 2000. An estimated 55.7 million (24.9 percent) smoked cigarettes, 10.7 million (4.8 percent) smoked cigars, 7.6 million (3.4 percent) used smokeless tobacco, and 2.1 million (1.0 percent) smoked tobacco in pipes.

There was a statistically significant decrease in current cigar use between 1999 and 2000, from 5.5 percent to 4.8 percent of the population aged 12 and older. Rates of use of smokeless tobacco and pipes were unchanged between 1999 and 2000.

Marlboro, Newport and Camel account for the vast majority of adolescent cigarette smoking, with 54.8 percent of current smokers aged 12-17 reporting Marlboro as their usual brand.

Trends in Initiation of Substance Use (Incidence)

Trends in new use of substances are estimated using the data reported on age at first use from the 1999 and the 2000 NHSDA. Information on when people first used a substance is collected on a retrospective basis. As a result, estimates of first time use or incidence are one year behind estimates of current use.

The estimated annual number of new marijuana users declined from 2.6 million in 1996 to about 2.0 million in 1999. This was preceded by a period of significant increase from 1990 (1.4 million new users) to 1996. Rates of new use for both youths and young adults decreased between 1998 and 1999 (from 85.2 initiates per 1,000 potential new users to 73.0, and from 44.1 to 31.7, respectively).

Approximately 1.5 million persons used pain relievers nonmedically for the first time in 1999. The number of initiates has been increasing since the mid 1980s, when it was below 400,000 per year. Youth aged 12 to 17 constitute the majority of this increase, from 78,000 initiates in 1985 to 722,000 in 1999.

Prevention-Related Data

Among youth aged 12 to 17, the percentage reporting great risk of smoking a pack or more of cigarettes a day increased from 60.7 percent in 1999 to 64.1 percent in 2000.

The percentage of youth aged 12 to 17 indicating a great risk of smoking marijuana once a month remained unchanged between 1999 and 2000 (37.2 percent in 1999 and 37.7 percent in 2000).

The percentage of persons aged 12 and older indicating that it was fairly or very easy to obtain a substance decreased between 1999 and 2000 for marijuana (56.9 to 54.8 percent), cocaine (32.3 to 30.4 percent), crack (30.9 to 29.0 percent), heroin (20.9 to 19.4 percent), and LSD (23.4 to 22.3 percent).

HHS agencies -- including SAMHSA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) -- play a key role in the administration's substance abuse strategy, leading the federal government's programs in drug abuse research and funding programs and campaigns aimed at prevention and treatment, particularly programs designed for youth. An HHS fact sheet with more information is available at /nhsda/2khhsfacts.htm. Other background and resources are available at the Web sites for SAMHSA (http://www.samhsa.gov), CDC (http://www.cdc.gov), NIDA (http://www.nida.nih.gov) and NIAAA (www.niaaa.nih.gov).

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Note: Findings from the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse are available on the World Wide Web at /nsduh.htm.

Note: All HHS press releases are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.hhs.gov.