Thursday, June 2, 2016

Illicit Drug Use in America and the Failed War on Drugs

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration looked at national drug use in its latest report for 2014.  In its report, SAMHSA found that drug use continued to rise as you will see in this posting.

Approximately 21.5 million Americans (or 10.2 percent of the population) aged 12 or older in 2014 had a substance use disorder (SUD).  This includes 7.1 million that had an illicit drug use disorder and 2.6 million who had both an alcohol and illicit drug use disorder.

Here is a graphic showing the number of past month illicit drug users in 2014:

Here is a graphic showing past month illicit drug users by year and how it has gradually risen over the past decade and a half:

The rise in illicit drug use among those aged 12 and older since 2002 reflects an increase in illicit drug use by adults aged 26 and older for the most part.  

Interestingly, an estimated 22.2 million Americans aged 12 and older in 2014 were current users of marijuana, corresponding to 8.4 percent of the population of that age group.  This is up from levels seen between 2002 and 2013 as shown on this graphic:

Here is a graphic showing the past month non-medical use of psychotherapeutic drug including pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives for people aged 12 and older:

Even though heroin has no medical use in the United States, there are about 435,000 current heroin users which represents about 0.2 percent of the population as shown on this graphic:

If you look carefully at the graphics, you'll note that the use of illicit drugs is most prevalent in the aged group between 18 and 25.  It is, however, interesting to note that there is significant drug use among those aged 12 to 17 and that illicit drug use has risen by a couple of percentage points over the last decade and a half.

So much for that multi-decade War on Drugs which has cost over $17.3 billion in 2016 (combined state and federal expenses) or $500 per second according to Drug Sense.


  1. Please study Portugal.

    They legalized all drug use. They found no increase in the amount of people using drugs. This clearly means laws against drug use are pointless. The war on drugs must be on of the most pointless and death causing stupidity ever undertaken by humanity. Well prohibition was just as dumb also. Trying to control what individuals want to do is just stupid there is no other way to put. By creating laws against drugs you create a black market and criminals. So many lives have been lost due to criminals fighting with each other over drug turf. Just legalize all of it Portugal is proof there will be no increase in drug use.

  2. The Four Ps of profitable illicit drug use: Preachers, Police, Politicians and Pushers.

  3. The War on Drugs was launched by President Nixon in 1971. Forty six years later, it has proven to be an astonishing success, as illegal drugs, and drug users are almost impossible to find anywhere in America today!