Women's Health USA 2007
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Health Status > Health Behaviors

Illicit Drug Use

Illicit drugs are associated with serious health and social consequences, such as addiction. Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens, crack, and prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs used for non-medical purposes. In 2005, nearly 12.7 million women aged 18 years and older reported using an illicit drug within the past year; this represents 11.2 percent of women. The past-year illicit drug use rate was significantly higher among women aged 18–25 years than among women 26 years and older (30.1 percent versus 8.1 percent). Among adolescent females aged 12–17 years, 20.0 percent reported using illicit drugs in the past year.

In 2005, marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug among females in each age group, followed by the non-medical use of prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs. Use of both categories of drugs was highest among females aged 18–25 (23.2 and 14.0 percent, respectively).

Methamphetamine is a stimulant with a high potential for abuse, and use can result in decreased appetite, increased respiration and blood pressure, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, and hyperthermia. Long-term effects can include paranoia, anorexia, delusions, and hallucinations.1 While limited data exist on adult methamphetamine use, the Monitoring the Future Survey has tracked use among students since 1999. In 2006, 1.8 percent of 8th and 10th graders and 2.5 percent of 12th graders reported using methamphetamine in the past year (data not shown).2

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health’s 2004–05 estimates, 3.9 percent of pregnant women reported using illicit drugs in the past month. Among pregnant 15- to 17-year-olds, 12.3 percent, or 1 in 8, reported past month illicit drug use. Women 18 and older were less likely to report illicit drug use during pregnancy: the rate was 7.0 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds, and 1.6 percent among those aged 26–44 years (data not shown).

1 National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. InfoFacts: Methamphetamine. March 2007. www.nida. nih.gov/Infofacts/methamphetamine.html. Viewed 4/18/07.

2 Johnston, LD, O’Malley, PM, Bachman, JG, & Schulenberg, JE. Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2006. [NIH Publication No. 07-6202] Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2007. http://www.monitoringthefuture.org. Viewed 5/31/07.


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Women's Health USA 2007 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 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.