1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse
Trends in Drug Use Among the Household Population Aged 12 or Older (Tables 2.2 to 2.4)
The rates of lifetime use for a few drugs also were significantly higher in 1997 when compared with previous years. The prevalence of lifetime use of marijuana was significantly greater in 1997 (33%) than the corresponding rates of lifetime marijuana use based on the three NHSDAs between 1979 and 1985 (28% in 1979, 29% in 1985) and on the 1995 NHSDA (31%). The lifetime rates of cocaine use in 1997 were significantly greater than corresponding rates in 1979 (11% vs. 9% in 1979). Another rate that was significantly higher in 1997, relative to that in 1988, was the lifetime use of "crack" cocaine.
Past Year Use (Table 2.3). For the population aged 12 or older, past year prevalence rates in 1997 remained at the same levels as in 1996 for all 17 categories of drugs. Past year rates of use in 1997, however, differed from the rates in earlier years for some drugs. Generally, rates of past year substance use were lower in 1997 than they were in the early years of the survey (i.e., 1979 to 1988). In the 1990s, however, prevalence rates in the total household population for most substances have been relatively stable. For example, the prevalence of past year marijuana use in 1997 (9%) remained at a level significantly lower than in 1985 and prior years (14% in 1985, 17% in 1979), but has not changed appreciably since 1991. The prevalences in 1997 of past year use of any illicit drug (11%) and of any illicit drug except marijuana (6%) also were lower than in 1985 (16% and 10%, respectively). With respect to specific illicit drugs other than marijuana, past year use of cocaine was significantly lower in 1997 than in 1988 and earlier years (2% in 1997 vs. 4% or more in 1982, 1985, and 1988), and past year nonmedical use of any psychotherapeutic drug in 1997 (3%) was only about half as prevalent as it was in 1985 (6%).
Two substances for which the prevalence of past year use changed in recent years (i.e., since 1979) are hallucinogens and heroin. The rate of past year hallucinogen use in 1997 (1.9%) was significantly higherthan corresponding rates in 1991 through 1994. The rate of past year heroin use in 1997 (0.3%) was as high or higher than at any point since 1979, and it was significantly greater than the 0.1% prevalence rates observed for 1993 and 1994.
The rate of alcohol use in the past year for 1997 (64%) was lower than in any year since 1979, although the rates of past year use differed from the 1997 rate significantly only for 1994 (67%), 1985 (73%), and 1979 (73%). The rate in 1997 of past year use of cigarettes (33%) remained about the same as it was for at least the previous 5 years of the survey, but it was significantly lower than the levels in 1988 (39%) and 1985 (41%).
Past Month Use (Table 2.4). Temporal patterns across the years from 1979 to 1997 in rates of past month substance use were similar to those exhibited by past year use. Prevalence rates in the 1990s have been generally stable, with the exceptions (as also noted for past year use) of higher rates of hallucinogens and heroin use in 1997 relative to earlier years in the current decade. For hallucinogens, past month use in 1997 was higher than it was from 1992 to 1994 (0.8% in 1997 vs. 0.4% in 1992 and 1993). The rate of past month use of heroin in 1997 (0.2%) was higher than the 0.0% to 0.1% rates for 1988 through 1994.6 One substance for which there was an indication of a decrease in use in recent years was tranquilizers. Past month use of this psychotherapeutic drug dropped from 1.1% in 1991 to 0.4% in 1997. In years prior to 1991, the rates of past month use for this drug were even higher than in 1991.
When rates of past month drug use are compared across the entire range of NHSDA years, the most recent rates (i.e., those for 1997) were lower for most of the substances listed in Table 2.4 than they were during the period of years when rates of almost all drug use were highest-from 1979 through 1988. Notably, the rate of past month use of any illicit drug in 1997 (6%) was less than one-half the level of such use in 1985 (12%) and in 1979 (14%). The same pattern was exhibited by the past month rate of use of marijuana, which was about one-half as great in 1997 (5%) as it was in 1985 (10%) and almost one-third the level in 1979 (13%). Similarly, past month use of hallucinogens was only half as prevalent in 1997 as in 1979 (0.8% vs. 1.9%), although as noted above, use in 1997 was twice the rate it was in 1992 and 1993. Past month use of any illicit drug except marijuana in 1997 was one-half the level in 1985 (3% vs. 6%), largely as a result of the decline in cocaine use (1% in 1997 vs. 3% in 1985) and nonmedical use of a psychotherapeutic drug (1% in 1997 vs. 4% in 1985).
Consistent with the patterns observed for many of the other substances, past month use of alcohol and cigarettes have been relatively stable in the 1990s. Past month alcohol use in 1997 (51%), however, was significantly lower than the corresponding rate in 1985 (60%), and past month cigarette use declined from 39% in 1985 to 30% in 1997.
In 1997, both "binge" drinking and heavy alcohol use in the past month were only about three-fourths as prevalent as each of these levels of alcohol were in 1985 (15% vs. 20% and 5% vs. 8%, respectively). Virtually all of this reduction occurred between the 1985 and 1988 NHSDAs, with subsequent years' rates remaining fairly stable at approximately the 1997 levels. Finally, past month use of smokeless tobacco in 1997 differed little from such use since 1988, a pattern already seen in the rates of past year and lifetime use of this form of tobacco.
6 Here and elsewhere in this report, a rate of 0.0% indicates that some use was reported, but after calculation and rounding, the resulting rate had a magnitude less than 0.05%, even though it was precise enough to be reported in the tables.
This page was last updated on December 30, 2008.