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Substance Abuse

Narrative

In 2010, the percent of adolescents aged 12–17 years who reported using illicit drugs in the past month was 10.1, similar to the 2009 estimate (10.0). Illicit drug use varied by age, with 4.0 percent of youth aged 12–13 years reporting drug use in the past month, compared to 9.3 percent of youth aged 14–15 years and 16.6 percent of youth aged 16–17 years (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). There was also variation by race/ ethnicity, with rates ranging from 4.1 percent among non-Hispanic Asian youth to 12.7 percent among non-Hispanic American Indian/ Alaska Native youth. Rates for non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic youth were 9.7 percent, 10.8 percent, and 11.8 percent, respectively (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Marijuana is consistently the most commonly used illicit drug among adolescents overall, with 7.4 percent reporting past-month use in 2010. This was followed by nonmedical use of prescription-type psychotherapeutics, such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives (3.0 percent). Differences by age were observed, however, with younger adolescents aged 12-13 years being more likely to report non-medical use of psychotherapeutic drugs. Illicit drug use is associated with other health risk behaviors. In 2010, 52.9 percent of adolescents who reported cigarette use in the past month also reported illicit drug use, compared to only 6.2 percent of adolescents who did not report smoking. Adolescents who reported alcohol use in the past month were also more likely to use illicit drugs than adolescents who did not report alcohol use: 70.6 percent of heavy drinkers (i.e., adolescents who consumed five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days), also used illicit drugs.

Alcohol continues to be the most commonly used drug among adolescents, with 13.6 percent reporting past-month use in 2010. The prevalence of alcohol use among males and females was similar: 13.7 and 13.5 percent, respectively). Greater variation was evident by race/ethnicity, with rates ranging from 4.8 percent among Asian youth to 14.9 percent of non-Hispanic White youth (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

In 2010, 30.1 percent of adolescents perceived smoking marijuana once a month to be a great risk, while 49.5 percent perceived the same risk regarding cocaine use. Smoking one or more packs of cigarettes a day was considered a great risk by 65.5 percent of adolescents. Drinking five or more drinks once or twice per week was considered a great risk by 40.8 percent of adolescents (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

While 14.3 percent of adolescents were approached by someone selling drugs in the past month, nearly 50 percent reported that marijuana would be fairly or very easy to obtain; 22.1 percent reported the same for crack, 19.0 percent for cocaine, 12.9 percent for LSD, and 11.6 percent for heroin (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Graph

This image is described in the Data section.

past month drug use by adolescents graph

Data

Past Month Drug Use Among Adolescents Aged 12-17 Years, by Drug Type, 2010

Percent of children aged 12-17 Years:

  • Alcohol: 13.6
  • Any illicit drug: 10.1
  • Marijuana: 7.4
  • Nonmedical Use of Psychotherapeutics*: 3.0
  • Inhalants: 1.1
  • Hallucinogens**: 0.9

*Includes non-medical use of pain relievers, sedatives, stimulants, and tranquilizers; does not include over-the-counter substances.
**Includes LSD, PCP, and Ecstasy.

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-41, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4658. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011. Accessed: May 18, 2012.