National survey shows lower rate of illicit drug use among adolescents ages 12 to 17

Report also shows continued lower rates of current drinking use and binge drinking among those aged 12 to 17
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The rate of current (past month) illicit drug use was lower among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2013 (8.8 percent) than 2012 (9.5 percent) and 2002 (11.6 percent) according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report. SAMHSA’s NSDUH report also found that between 2002 and 2013, the level of youth aged 12 to 17 with substance dependence or abuse problems decreased from 8.9 percent to 5.2 percent.

SAMHSA issued its 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) on substance use disorder issues as part of the 25th annual observance of National Recovery Month.

Recovery Month aims to educate the public that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, that treatment for substance use and mental health disorders is effective, and that people can and do recover.

The SAMHSA report also found that the rates of past month drinking (11.6 percent), and binge drinking (6.2 percent) among adolescents aged 12 to 17 decreased from their levels in 2012 (12.9 percent and 7.2 percent respectively). The percentage of people aged 12 and older who drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year in 2013 was 10.9 percent, significantly lower than the level in 2002 (14.2 percent) but similar to the rate in 2012 (11.2 percent).

Overall, the use of illicit drugs among Americans aged 12 and older remained stable since the last survey in 2012. The NSDUH report shows that 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit drug users – (9.4 percent of the population 12 and older).

Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug. In 2013, 19.8 million or 7.5 percent of Americans age 12 and older were current users of marijuana – up from 5.8 percent in 2007.

The SAMHSA report indicated that the level of use for most other illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and prescription pain relievers (used non-medically) remained similar to what they had been in 2012.

“This report shows that we have made important progress in some key areas, but that we need to rejuvenate our efforts to promote prevention, treatment and recovery to reach all aspects of our community,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “The real lives represented by these statistics deserve our protection and help from the ravages of substance use disorders. Through a comprehensive, national effort we can help people avoid, or recover from substance use problems and lead healthy, productive lives.”

SAMHSA’s report showed some other areas of continued improvement including a drop in the rate of past month use of tobacco products among 12- to 17-year olds – from 15.2 percent in 2002, to a new low of 7.8 percent in 2013.

The 2013 report also showed that many Americans needing treatment for a substance use disorder are still not receiving specialty treatment. According to the report 22.7 million Americans aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in 2013 and only 2.5 million (or 10.9 percent of those in need) received it in a specialized treatment setting (a facility specifically designed for the treatment of substance use disorders).

NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 70,000 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. Because of its statistical power, it is a primary source of statistical information on the scope and nature of many substance abuse and mental health issues affecting the nation.

The complete survey findings are available on the SAMHSA web site at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2013SummNatFindDetTables/Index.aspx. For more information about SAMHSA visit: http://www.samhsa.gov/.

The complete NSDUH findings for mental health issues are scheduled to be released in November 2014.

For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Last Updated: 08/19/2015