Health Status > Health Behaviors

Illicit Drug Use

Illicit drugs are associated with serious health consequences including addiction. Drugs classified as illicit are marijuana/hashish, cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens, crack, and prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs used for non-medical purposes. In 2004, a total of 12.5 million women (11.2 percent) aged 18 or older reported using an illicit drug within the last year. The past-year illicit drug use rate was significantly higher among women aged 18-25 than among women over age 25 (29.9 percent compared to 8.1 percent). Among adolescent females aged 12-17, 21.5 percent reported using illicit drugs in the past year. When stratified by race, illicit drug use among adolescent females was more common among non-Hispanic Whites (22.9 percent) than Hispanics (22.1 percent) or non-Hispanic Blacks (17.6 percent).
In 2004, marijuana was the illicit drug most commonly used by females in all age groups. Among females, those aged 18-25 had the highest rate of past-year marijuana use (23.7 percent). The second most common type of illicit drugs used in the past year by women aged 18-25 was prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs used for non-medical purposes-these were used by 13.4 percent of women aged 18-25 years. Adolescent females’ drug use patterns differed from those of adult women. Those aged 12-17 reported the highest rate of inhalant use (4.7 percent) compared to their older counterparts.

In 2003 and 2004, 4.6 percent of pregnant women aged 15 to 44 years reported using illicit drugs in the month prior to their survey interview. Among the subgroup of 15- to 17-year-old pregnant youth, approximately one in six, or 16.0 percent, reported illicit drug use in the past month. This represents a 25 percent increase from a rate of 12.8 percent among this age group in the 2002-03 period. The rate was the same among non-pregnant women in this 15- to 17-year-old age group, while among women aged 18 years and older, the rate of illegal drug use in the last month was much lower among pregnant women than their non-pregnant counterparts.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of smoking: a report of the Surgeon General. 2004.

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Women's Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.