It’s That Time of Year! NSDUH is Here!


Data from the 2014 survey of NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) was released this month, as it is every year, in time to celebrate National Recovery Month of September:

It’s mildly interesting reading; I saw no dramatic changes in the area of opioid addiction.

The number of non-medical users of prescription opioids remained roughly the same as last year, at 4.3 million people over the age of 12. That’s lower than in years 2001-2011. Overall, we may be seeing a slow trend downward. Also, there was a decline in users aged 18-25. Maybe current addicts are aging, and being counted in the next ago group 26 and older, but that next age group didn’t have a large increase this year or last. Maybe fewer youngsters are starting pain pill use, since they see the problems with opioid use in their older friends and acquaintances.

Heroin use is increasing, as has been discussed in this blog recently. However, according to NSDUH, though the total number of users increased, it only increased .1 percent. In total, an estimated 435,000 people over age 12 in the U.S. are current heroin users. I do suspect the upward trend will be more dramatic in future years, unfortunately.

The number of current marijuana users age 12 and older continued to gradually increase, with 22.2 million current users of marijuana and hashish. This is about 8.4% of the U.S. population over age 12. That number is not significantly higher than in 2013.

How accurate is NSDUH data? If anything, it likely underestimates the number of drug users. It surveys people living in households, at fixed addresses. It does not survey the homeless or those in jails, hospitals or other institutions. It also does not survey military personnel. People in some of these groups, particularly the homeless and the imprisoned, have high rates of drug addiction, so NSDUH is probably underestimating the prevalence of addiction.

However, this is the best yearly study we have available in the U.S.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Either the data is old or it is wrong. Our IOP, PHP and ambulatory detox program in Southern California, has gone from an average of an opiate dependent patient admit every quarter (and two per year for heroin) to an escalating opiate census from 2003 to date of from 40% to 65%. We average about 70 patients, at any given time, stabilize them on buprenorphine and treat according to each individual’s needs. Today, we admitted two patients with addiction to heroin and three on Friday. The stats that you quote, just don’t meet what we are seeing in our outpatient clinic nor does it match what the admitting patients are telling us about their peers. Obviously, this is a skewed group to select any kind of analysis from, but it gives us a peek into what else is going on.
    we participate in the NSDUH study and I can assure you that those are not the numbers that we would report. The simple truth is that we are in the midst of an epidemic in California and, from what I hear, all over the country.
    No wonder there isn’t an outcry in this country regarding the need to address the deaths from heroin. We anticipate more opiate dependence because so many young people report that they “didn’t think that they could get addicted by smoking it”. Appears that the Mu receptors don’t care about route of administration and today’s teens are just as risk taking as I was a long time ago.

    Rocky Hill


  2. Posted by kevin on September 29, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Dr Burson, how do you feel about marijuana being legalized? I dont know if it ever will in my lifetime, but i do know that it is far less dangerous than alcohol. I feel that there are far less problems with its use compared to other drugs and alcohol.


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