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Illicit Drug Use

Narrative

Illicit drug use is associated with serious health and social consequences, including addiction and drug-induced death, impaired cognitive functioning, kidney and liver damage, decreased productivity, and family disintegration.1,2 Illicit drugs include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and non-medical use of prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs, such as pain relievers, stimulants, and sedatives. Methamphetamine is a type of psychotherapeutic drug that has limited medical use for narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder, and is now manufactured and distributed illegally.1

In 2007–2009, 11.4 percent of adult women aged 18 years and older reported using an illicit drug within the past year, compared to 17.0 percent of adult men. Illicit drug use was highest among younger adults; almost one-third (30.4 percent) of adult women aged 18–25 reported past-year illicit drug use. Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug among women aged 18 and older (7.8 percent), followed by the non-medical use of psychotherapeutics (5.6 percent).

Illicit drug use varies by race and ethnicity. Among women, the use of any illicit drug was highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native, non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander and non-Hispanic women of multiple races (17.5, 17.6, and 17.7 percent, respectively) and lowest among non-Hispanic Asian women (5.4 percent). Racial and ethnic differences for specific types of illicit drugs are generally similar to differences for any illicit drug use. However, non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women had among the highest rates of reported cocaine use (1.7 and 1.4 percent, respectively), while non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic Asian women were least likely to report cocaine use (0.9 and 0.4 percent, respectively). Non-Hispanic White women were also among the most likely to have used psychotherapeutic drugs for non-medical use (6.3 percent).

1 National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs of Abuse Information: Drugs of Abuse/Related Topics, August 2009. Accessed 03/28/11.
2 White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Fact Sheets/Consequences of Illicit Drug Use, December 2010. Accessed 03/28/11.

Graphs

Data

Past Year Use of Illicit Drugs Among Women Aged 18 and Older, by Drug Type, 2007–2009

Percent of Women:

  • Any Illicit Drug: 11.4
  • Marijuana: 7.8
  • Cocaine: 1.5
  • Heroin: 0.1
  • Hallucinogens: 1.0
  • Inhalants: 0.2
  • Non-medical Use of Psychotherapeutics*: 5.6

*Includes prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives, but not over-the-counter drugs.

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2007-2009. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Information Resource Center.

Past Year Use of Any Illicit Drug* Among Women Aged 18 and Older, by Race/Ethnicity, 2007–2009

Percent of Women:

  • Non-Hispanic White: 11.9
  • Non-Hispanic Black: 12.2
  • Hispanic: 9.4
  • Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native: 17.5
  • Non-Hispanic Asian: 5.4
  • Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 17.6
  • Non-Hispanic Multiple Race: 17.7

*Includes marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and any prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs used for non-medical purposes.

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2007-2009. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Information Resource Center.

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