1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse:  Preliminary Results

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HIGHLIGHTS

This report presents the first results from the 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an annual survey conducted by SAMHSA. The survey provides estimates of the prevalence of use of a variety of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, based on a nationally representative sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized population age 12 years and older. In 1997, a sample of 24,505 persons was interviewed for the survey. This included expanded samples in two states, California and Arizona, with samples of 4,360 and 4,415 respectively. Selected findings are given below:

Illicit Drug Use

·230·In 1997, an estimated 13.9 million Americans were current users of illicit drugs, meaning they had used an illicit drug sometime during the 30 days prior to the interview. This number does not represent a significant change from 1996 when the estimate was 13.0 million. The number of current illicit drug users was 25 million in 1979 when the number was at the highest level.·230

·230·In 1997, 11.4 percent of youth age 12-17 reported using illicit drugs in the 30 days prior to the time of the interview. Between 1995 and 1996 the percent of youth using illicit drugs declined from 10.9 percent to 9.0 percent. The rate was highest in 1979 (16.3 percent) and declined to a low of 5.3 percent in 1992.·230

·230·Between 1996 and 1997 current illicit drug use increased significantly for youth age 12-13, rising from 2.2 to 3.8 percent.·230

·230·Nearly 1 in 10 youth age 12-17 were current users of marijuana in 1997. The prevalence of marijuana use among youth more than doubled from 1992 to 1997 and increased significantly between 1996 and 1997 from 7.1 percent to 9.4 percent. The level for 1997 is still less than the 14.2 percent estimate for 1979.·230

·230·In 1997, an estimated 1.5 million Americans were current users of cocaine. This represents 0.7 percent of the population age 12 and older. The number did not change significantly from 1996 (1.75 million). The present level of current cocaine users is down from a peak of 5.7 million (3.0 percent of the population) in 1985.·230

·230·There has been an increasing trend in heroin use since 1992. The estimated number of past month heroin users has increased from 68,000 (less than 0.1 percent of the population) in 1993 to 325,000 (0.2 percent of the population) in 1997.·230

Alcohol Use

·230·In 1997, 111 million Americans age 12 and older had used alcohol during the 30 days prior to the interview. About 32 million engaged in binge drinking, meaning they drank 5 or more drinks on one occasion in the past month; and 11 million were heavy drinkers, meaning they had 5 or more drinks on one occasion on 5 or more days in the past month. The percentages of the population falling into each group has remained essentially the same since 1988.·230

·230·In 1997, 11 million current drinkers were age 12-20. Of this group, 4.8 million, or more than 40 percent, engaged in binge drinking, including 2.0 million heavy drinkers.·230

Cigarette Use

·230·In 1997, an estimated 64 million Americans reported smoking tobacco within 30 days prior to the interview. This represents a rate of 30 percent and the rate did not change between 1996 and 1997.·230

·230·An estimated 20 percent of youth age 12-17 (4.5 million) were current smokers in 1997. There was no significant change in this rate between 1996 and 1997 and the smoking rate for this group has remained relatively stable since 1988.·230

·230·For youth age 12-13 there was a significant increase in the rate of current use of cigarettes from 7.3 percent in 1996 to 9.7 percent in 1997.·230

Trends in New Use of Substances (Incidence)

·230·An estimated 2.5 million people started using marijuana in 1996. Because information on when people first use substances is collected on a retrospective basis, incidence data is always one year behind information on current use.·230

·230·Age-specific rates of first marijuana use among youth age 12-17 increased from 37 to 83 per thousand potential new users between 1991 and 1996; for young adults age 18-25 the rates increased from 34 to 54 during the same period. The age-specific rate of first use of marijuana among youth which has been estimated as far back as 1965 was higher than previously recorded. The rate for young adults was at the highest level since 1980.·230

·230·In 1996, an estimated 171,000 persons used heroin for the first time. The estimated number of new users and the rate of initiation for youth were at the highest levels in 30 years.·230

·230·In 1996, there were an estimated 675,000 new cocaine users, compared to 1.2 to 1.3 million cocaine initiates per year from 1980-1986. However, the rate of new use among youth age 12-17 increased from 4.0 in 1991 to 11.3 in 1996. The age-specific rate of first use of cocaine among youth was at its highest level in 30 years.·230

·230·In 1996, there were an estimated 1.1 million new hallucinogen users, approximately twice the annual average observed during the 1980s. The rate of initiation among youth age 12-17 increased between 1991 and 1996 from 11.7 to 25.8 per thousand potential new users.·230

Perceived Risk and Availability of Drugs

·230·Between 1996 and 1997, the percentage of youth age 12-17 reporting great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice a week decreased from 57.1 to 54.0 percent.·230

·230·The percent of youth age 12-17 reporting great risk in using cocaine once a month decreased from 72 percent in 1990 to 54 percent in 1997. Between 1996 and 1997 there was no significant change in this percentage.·230

·230·In 1997, more than half of all youth age 12-17 reported that marijuana was easy to obtain. About 21 percent reported heroin was easy to obtain. Fifteen percent of youth reported being approached by someone selling drugs during the 30 day period prior to the interview.·230

Drug Use in California and Arizona

·230·In 1997 the prevalence of illicit drug use among persons 12 and older was somewhat higher in California (8.3) percent and Arizona (8.4 percent) compared to the rest of the United States (6.1 percent).·230

·230·In 1997, 6.6 percent of the youth age 12-17 in California were current marijuana users compared with 13.1 percent in Arizona and 9.9 percent in the rest of the United States.·230

·230·Similarly, 9.1 percent of youth in California, 16.8 percent in Arizona, and 11.9 percent in the rest of the United States were current illicit drug users in 1997.·230

·230·In 1997, Californians and Arizonans were less likely to perceive great risk in using marijuana than residents in the remainder of the United States.·230

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This page was last updated on February 05, 2009.