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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, infections—including HIV and Hepatitis—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, in low doses, has limited medical use for narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder, and is now manufactured and distributed illegally.1

In 2009–2010, 6.5 percent of adult women aged 18 years and older reported using an illicit drug within the past month, compared to 11.2 percent of adult men. Illicit drug use was highest among younger adults; 17.1 of women aged 18–25 reported past-month illicit drug use compared to 9.6 percent of women aged 26–34 and 5.6 percent of women aged 35–49. Rates of past-month illicit drug use also varied by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic Asian women were less likely than other women to report past-month use (2.1 percent, data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug among adult women (4.6 percent), followed by the non-medical use of psychotherapeutics (2.4 percent; data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Past-month illicit drug use varied by poverty level. Among both men and women, illicit drug use was more common among those with lower incomes. For example, 10.4 percent of women and 19.5 percent of men with household incomes below 100 percent of poverty used illicit drugs in the past month, compared to 5.4 percent of women and 9.3 percent of men with incomes of 200 percent or more of poverty.

1 National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs of Abuse Information: Drugs of Abuse/Related Topics, August 2009. Accessed 08/24/12.

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Persons Who Use Drugs: Infections among Persons Who Use Drugs. Accessed 08/24/12.

Graphs

Data

Any Illicit Drug Use* in the Past Month Among Adults Aged 18 and Older, by Age and Sex, 2009-2010
Age Percent of Adults
Female Male
*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, 2009-2010. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.
Total 6.5 11.2
18-25 Years 17.1 26.1
26-34 Years 9.6 16.2
35-49 Years 5.6 8.9
50-64 Years 3.5 6.9
65 Years and Older 0.8 1.6
Any Illicit Drug Use* in the Past Month Among Adults Aged 18 and Older, by Poverty Status** and Sex, 2009-2010
Poverty Status Percent of Adults
Female male
*Includes marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and any prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs used for non-medical purposes.
**Poverty level, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, was $22,314 for a family of four in 2010; adults aged 18-22 years living in college dormitories were excluded from poverty determinations. Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009-2010. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.
Total 6.5 11.2
Less than 100% of Poverty 10.4 19.5
100%-199% of Poverty 6.8 13.2
200% or More of Poverty 5.4 9.3