Posts Tagged ‘2012’

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

NSDUH past month illicit drug use 12 and older

Every year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is performed by a research group out of Raleigh, NC. The NSDUH report is released each fall, compiling data collected about drug and alcohol use in the nation and in individual states, from the previous year. This annual survey of around 70,000 people in the U.S. over age 12 also collects data on mental health in the U.S. This research information is collected from phone calls to individual households and is the primary source of data on the abuse of drug including alcohol in the U.S.

Since this survey is conducted on household members, some scientists say the data underestimates drug use since its methods exclude populations living in institutions such as prisons, hospitals and mental institutions. Such populations are known to have the highest rates of drug use and addiction. But the annual NSDUH report is still one of the best sources of information we have at present. This data can be evaluated for new trends of drug use and abuse, and can help direct funding toward problem areas. Researchers use this data to assess and monitor drug use, as well as the consequences.

This report contains data from 2012, and there were no big surprises.

23.9 million people in the U.S. over age 12 used illicit drugs over the past month. That’s around 9.2% of the population. By no means are all these people addicted, but they certainly are at risk for addiction. It’s not much different than the last NSDUH study. Just as in the past, the primary illicit drug used was marijuana, with 18.9 million people saying they used it during the previous 30 days.


Psychotherapeutics were a distant second, with 6.8 million people in the U.S. over age 12 saying they’ve used these drugs non-medically over the past thirty days. This group of drugs contains opioids, stimulants, sedatives and tranquilizers. (Don’t ask me why sedatives and tranquilizers have two separate categories. It doesn’t make any sense to me either). In this survey, non-medical use is defined as use of a drug not in accordance with instructions from a physician. These are scary numbers, but again, it’s not significantly different from last year.


Overall nonmedical use of prescription opioids has remained fairly steady over the last ten years, but the above graph shows the steady increase in heroin use. This correlates with what I’ve been seeing in opioid treatment programs. This last week I admitted six people to an opioid treatment program in the mountains, and half were using heroin. They all described the heroin as being called “China white,” rather than the more usual black tar heroin that comes from Mexico and South America. This so-called China white has been seen in the Northeast, so I’ve been surprised to see addicts using it in rural mountain communities.

Read the study for yourself, since your tax dollars paid for it: