1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse:  Preliminary Results

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10. PERCEIVED RISK OF HARM AND OTHER MEASURES

In addition to the information on substance use, respondents also provide their perceptions of the risk of harm of using drugs and the availability of drugs. For this report, perceived risk of harm is presented as the percent reporting that they perceive great risk of harm in using the drug at a specified level of frequency. Perceived availability is measured as the percent reporting that obtaining the drug is either very easy or fairly easy. Another measure included in the NHSDA related to availability of drugs is the percent of respondents reporting that they had been approached by someone selling drugs in the past month. All of these measures are important correlates of drug use that help explain the patterns and trends in substance use, particularly among youth.

oThe percent of the population reporting great risk of harm in using marijuana once a month remained about the same between 1996 (44.1 percent) and 1997 (43.4 percent). The percent reporting great risk in using marijuana more frequently also did not change

oAmong youth age 12-17 years, the perceived risk of smoking marijuana once or twice a week decreased significantly between 1996 and 1997. This reflects a continuation of decline in perceived risk of marijuana use (including "once a month" use) that has occurred since 1990. This trend in perceived risk mirrors the trend in the use of marijuana among youth. As the perceived risk decreased, use increased, and vice versa. It is interesting to note that the perceived risk began to decline two years before use began to increase (Figure 17).

Undisplayed Graphic

oThere was a rate increase for those age 12 and older in the perceived risk of occasional (once a month) use of cocaine from 1996 to 1997 (76.0 percent to 77.9 percent respectively). Since 1990, the percent of youth reporting great risk in using cocaine once a month decreased from 72 percent to 54 percent. This measure of perceived risk had previously increased from 58 percent in 1985 to 70 percent in 1988.

o160oAmong youth age 12-17 years, the percent reporting great risk in smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day has steadily increased from 45 percent in 1985 to 54 percent in 1996 and remains unchanged in 1997.o160

oIn 1993, 70 percent of the population age 12 and older perceived great risk in having four or five drinks nearly every day, and 60 percent reported great risk in having five or more drinks once or twice a week. In 1997, daily use of alcohol (four or five drinks) was associated with great risk by 77 percent of the population, an increase in perceived risk from 1993. However, the perceived risk of having five or more drinks once or twice a week decreased over the same period to 55 percent in 1997. This diverging trend from 1993 to 1997 was evident not only for the total population, but for youth age 12-17 years, as well. The rates for all persons 12 and older and for youth were consistent between 1996 and 1997.

oMore than half (58 percent) of youth age 12-17 reported that marijuana was easy to obtain in 1997. This is an increase from 1992, when 51 percent reported that marijuana was easy to obtain.

oThe percent of youth reporting that heroin was easy to obtain was 21.4 percent in 1997, similar to 1996. In the total population age 12 and older, the percent reporting that heroin was easy to obtain remained unchanged, about 31 percent in 1997.

oThe percent of the population reporting that they had been approached by someone selling drugs in the past month decreased from 9.2 percent in 1992 to 6.9 percent in 1997. However, among youth age 12-17 years, the percent was 14.6 percent in 1997, similar to the percentage in 1992 (13.4 percent).

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This page was last updated on February 05, 2009.