1996 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: Preliminary Results

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This report presents the first results from the 1996 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 1996, a sample of 18,269 persons was interviewed for the survey. Selected findings are given below:

Illicit Drug Use

•In 1996, an estimated 13.0 million Americans were current illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug in the month prior to interview. This represents no change from 1995 when the estimate was 12.8 million. The number of current illicit drug users was at its highest level in 1979 when there were 25 million.

•Following a significant increase from 1992 to 1995, between 1995 and 1996 there was a decrease in the rate of past month illicit drug use among youths age 12-17. The rate was 5.3 percent in 1992, 10.9 percent in 1995, and 9.0 percent in 1996. The decrease between 1995 and 1996 occurred in the younger part of this age group, i.e., those age 12 to 15 years.

•For those age 18-25 years, the rate of past month illicit drug use increased from 13.3 percent in 1994 to 15.6 percent in 1996. The rate of past month cocaine use also increased in this age group during this period, from 1.2 percent to 2.0 percent.

•There were an estimated 2.4 million people who started using marijuana in 1995. This was about the same number as in 1994. The annual number of marijuana initiates rose between 1991 and 1994.

•The rate of past month hallucinogen use among youths age 12-17 increased from 1.1 percent in 1994 to 2.0 percent in 1996.

•The overall number of current cocaine users did not change significantly between 1995 and 1996 (1.45 million in 1995 and 1.75 million in 1996). This is down from a peak of 5.7 million in 1985. Nevertheless, there were still an estimated 652,000 Americans who used cocaine for the first time in 1995.

•There were an estimated 141,000 new heroin users in 1995, and there has been an increasing trend in new heroin use since 1992. A large proportion of these recent new users were smoking, snorting, or sniffing heroin, and most were under age 26. The estimated number of past month heroin users increased from 68,000 in 1993 to 216,000 in 1996.

Alcohol Use

•In 1996, 109 million Americans age 12 and older had used alcohol in the past month (51 percent of the population). About 32 million engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past month) and about 11 million were heavy drinkers (drinking five or more drinks per occasion on 5 or more days in the past 30 days).

•About 9 million current drinkers were age 12-20 in 1996. Of these, 4.4 million were binge drinkers, including 1.9 million heavy drinkers.

Cigarette Use

•An estimated 62 million Americans were current smokers in 1996. This represents a smoking rate of 29 percent. Current cigarette smoking did not change between 1995 and 1996.

•Among youths age 12-17, rates of smoking did not change between 1995 and 1996. An estimated 18 percent of youths age 12-17 (4.1 million adolescents) were current smokers in 1996.

•In 1995, about 1.7 million Americans first became daily smokers. The estimated number of new smokers per year has remained relatively steady since the 1980's.

Perceived Risk and Availability of Drugs

•The percent of youths age 12-17 that perceived great risk in using marijuana once a month decreased from 1990 (40 percent) to 1994 (33 percent), but remained level from 1994 to 1996.

•The percent of youths reporting great risk in using cocaine once a month decreased from 63 percent in 1994 to 54 percent in 1996.

•The percent of youths reporting great risk in having five or more drinks once or twice a week decreased from 58 percent in 1992 to 45 percent in 1996. During that same period, the percent reporting great risk in having four or five drinks nearly every day increased from 61 percent to 67 percent.

•More than half of youths age 12-17 reported that marijuana was easy to obtain in 1996, and about one quarter reported that heroin was easy to obtain. Fifteen percent of youths reported being approached by someone selling drugs in the month prior to interview.

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This page was last updated on February 05, 2009.