Abnormal Psychology: Mental Health and Mental Illness

What Do Recent Statistics Say About Drug Use in the United States?

Is there a difference between recreational drug use and addiction?

The data below come from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by SAMHSA, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Data are based on interviews with 67,870 subjects aged 12 or older. Two main findings stand out. For one, recreational use of substances is extremely widespread, affecting almost half the U.S. population. Nonetheless, use of highly addictive substances, such as heroin and methamphetamine, is far less common than use of less addictive substances, such as marijuana and pain relievers. Secondly, there is a large difference between lifetime use and recent use, suggesting that recreational drug use is either infrequent or temporary for most people.

Almost half the U.S. population uses an illicit substance at some point in their life. If we include alcohol, the proportion of people who engage in recreational substance use is far higher. Many people can use psychoactive substances without harm. Addiction, however, is an entirely different animal. Severe addiction, particularly to the most addictive substances such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, lays waste to peoples’ lives. Careers, physical health, families, and even whole communities can be destroyed by drug addiction. Furthermore, approximately 10 percent of people with substance dependence commit suicide, generally in the midst of a substance-induced depression.


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