1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse
Prevalence of Drug Use in 1997 (Table 2.1)
Based on the 1997 NHSDA, more than one-third (36%) of the population was estimated to have used some illicit drug during their lifetime, about one-tenth (11%) used an illicit drug in the past year, and one-seventeenth (6%) were current users. Expressed in population counts, nearly 77 million persons had ever used at least one illicit drug, 24 million had done so during the past year, and almost 14 million had used an illicit drug within the past 30 days. For many users of illicit drugs, the only illicit drug that was used was marijuana. When marijuana is excluded from the list of illicit drugs, the population counts of lifetime, past year, and past month users are cut approximately in half.
About 71 million persons had ever used marijuana, reflecting its status as the most commonly used illicit drug; it had been used in the past year by over 19 million persons and in the past month by more than 11 million users. The second most commonly used illicit drug was cocaine, with 22.6 million lifetime users, over 4 million of whom had used cocaine in the past year and 1.5 million users in the past month. After marijuana and cocaine, the next most commonly used illicit drug categories were psychotherapeutic (i.e., prescription) drugs used nonmedically and hallucinogens, each of which were used in the lifetime by approximately 20 million persons. Over 12 million were estimated to have used inhalants, and 2 million persons had used heroin in their lifetime.
The relative differences in lifetime, past year, and past month use varied by type of drug. For example, the lifetime prevalence of both stimulants and analgesics was similar at just under 5%, yet current use of analgesics was twice as prevalent than current use of stimulants. Although lifetime use of phencyclidine (PCP) was three times greater than that for heroin (3% vs. 1%), the estimated prevalence of current heroin use was higher than the prevalence for current PCP use. Drug categories with a relatively high lifetime to current useratio, such as PCP, stimulants, and inhalants, tend to be drugs that either were popular at some point in the past but are no longer so widely used, or drugs that tend to be used experimentally or infrequently rather than on a regular basis.
Almost 82% of the population (about 177 million persons) was estimated to have had a drink of alcohol at least once (a drink was defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or a shot of hard liquor). Nearly as many persons, over 152 million (almost 71%), had ever tried at least a puff or two from a cigarette at least once in their lifetime. In the past month, about half (51%) of the population aged 12 or older drank alcohol, while nearly 30% had at least a puff or two from at least one cigarette; these percentages represent 111 million current drinkers and 64 million current cigarette smokers. More than 37 million persons were estimated to have used smokeless tobacco at least once, including nearly 7 million who reported that they had used this form of tobacco during the month before their being interviewed.
This page was last updated on December 30, 2008.