Results of the 2001 National
Household Survey on Drug Abuse reveal that, while millions
of Americans habitually smoke pot, drink alcohol, snort
cocaine and swallow prescription drugs, too many drug
users who meet the criteria for needing treatment do
not recognize that they have a problem. The figure
of those "in denial" is estimated at more than 4.6
million--a significantly higher number of individuals
in need of professional help than had been previously
According to the results of the survey, of the 5.0 million people who needed
but did not receive treatment in 2001, an estimated 377,000 reported that they
felt they needed treatment for their drug problem. This includes an estimated
101,000 who reported that they made an effort but were unable to get treatment
and 276,000 who reported making no effort to get treatment.
"We have a large and growing denial gap when it comes to drug abuse and dependency
in this country," said John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "We
have a responsibility--as family members, employers, physicians, educators, religious
leaders, neighbors, colleagues, and friends--to reach out to help these people.
We must find ways to lead them back to drug free lives. And the earlier we reach
them, the greater will be our likelihood of success."
70,000 Participated in the Nationwide Survey
70,000 people, aged 12 and older, participated
in the nationwide survey and were asked questions concerning
run-ins with the law, drunken driving, difficulties
at school or work, as well as details of their drug
use. Many users who said they'd encountered trouble
in most areas still believed they were in control of
Overall, the Household Survey found that 15.9 million Americans age 12 and
older used an illicit drug in the month immediately prior to the survey interview.
This represents an estimated 7.1 percent of the population in 2001, compared
to an estimated 6.3 percent the previous year.
The survey's results reveal that 10.8 percent of youths age 12 to 17 were current
drug users in 2001 compared with 9.7 percent in 2000. (On a positive note,
youth cigarette use in 2001 was slightly below the rate for 2000, continuing
a downward trend since 1999.)
Among young adults age 18 to 25, current drug use increased between 2000 and
2001 from 15.9 percent to 18.8 percent. There were no statistically significant
changes in the rates of drug use among adults age 26 and older.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Administrator
Charles G. Curie emphasized that, "Behind these numbers are real children and
adults impacted by drug use. We must refuse to give up on people who have handed
over their aspirations and their futures to drug use. People need to know help
is available, treatment is effective and recovery is possible." Curie added
that the prevalence of drug use and abuse is partly due to a drop in the amount
of people who see certain substances, such as marijuana, as harmful.
An estimated 2.4 million Americans used
marijuana for the first time in 2000. Because of the
way trends in the new use of substances are estimated,
estimates of first- time use are always a year behind
estimates of current use. The annual number of new
marijuana users has varied considerably since 1965
when there were an estimated 0.6 million new users.
The number of new marijuana users reached a peak in
1976 and 1977 at around 3.2 million. Between 1990 and
1996, the estimated number of new users increased from
1.4 million to 2.5 million and has remained at this
The measure of perceived risk in the use of marijuana among youth provides
an important predictor of drug use, particularly among youths. As perceived
risk of using marijuana decreases, rates of marijuana use tend to increase.
Perceived great risk of smoking marijuana once or twice a week decreased from
56.4 percent in 2000 to 53.3 percent in 2001. Among youths age 12 to 17, the
percentage reporting great risk in marijuana use declined from 56.0 to 53.5
The number of persons who had ever tried
Ecstasy (MDMA) increased from 6.5 million in 2000 to
8.1 million in 2001. There were 786,000 current users
in 2001. In 2000, an estimated 1.9 million persons
used Ecstasy (MDMA) for the first time compared with
0.7 million in 1998. This change represents a tripling
in incidence in just 2 years.
The number of persons reporting use of
Oxycontin ® for non-medical purposes at least once in
their lifetime increased from 221,000 in 1999 to 399,000
in 2000 to 957,000 in 2001. The annual number of new
users of pain relievers non medically has also been
increasing since the mid-1980s when there were roughly
400,000 initiates. In 2000, there were an estimated
About 10.1 million persons age 12 to 20
years reported current use of alcohol in 2001. This
number represents 28.5 percent of this age group for
whom alcohol is an illicit substance. Of this number,
nearly 6.8 million, or 19.0 percent, were binge drinkers
and 2.1 million, or 6.0 percent, were heavy drinkers.
In 2001, more than 1 in 10 Americans, or 25.1 million
persons, reported driving under the influence of alcohol
at least once in the 12 months prior to the interview.
The rate of driving under the influence of alcohol
increased from 10.0 to 11.1 percent between 2000 and
2001. Among young adults age 18 to 25 years, 22.8 percent,
drove under the influence of alcohol.
An estimated 66.5 million Americans 12
years or older reported current use of a tobacco product
in 2001. This number represents 29.5 percent of the
population. Youth cigarette use in 2001 was slightly
below the rate for 2000, continuing a downward trend
Rates of youth cigarette use were 14.9 percent in 1999, 13.4 percent in 2000,
and 13.0 percent in 2001. The annual number of new daily smokers age 12 to
17 decreased from 1.1 million in 1997 to 747,000 in 2000. This translates into
a reduction from 3,000 to 2,000 in the number of new youth smokers per day.
Measuring the Most Serious Problems
The Household Survey includes a series
of questions designed to measure more serious problems
resulting from use of substances. Overall, an estimated
16.6 million persons age 12 or older were classified
with dependence on or abuse of either alcohol or illicit
drugs in 2001 (7.3 percent of the population). Of these,
2.4 million were classified with dependence or abuse
of both alcohol and illicit drugs, 3.2 million were
dependent or abused illicit drugs but not alcohol,
and 11.0 million were dependent on or abused alcohol
but not illicit drugs. The number of persons with substance
dependence or abuse increased from 14.5 million (6.5
percent of the population) in 2000 to 16.6 million
(7.3 percent) in 2001.
Between 2000 and 2001, there was a significant increase in the estimated number
of persons age 12 or older needing treatment for an illicit drug problem. This
number increased from 4.7 million in 2000 to 6.1 million in 2001. During the
same period, there was also an increase from 0.8 million to 1.1 million in
the number of persons receiving treatment for this problem at a specialty facility.
However, the overall number of persons needing but not receiving treatment
increased from 3.9 million to 5.0 million.
New Focus on Mental Health Needs
For the first time, the Household Survey
included questions that measure serious mental disorders.
Both youths and adults were asked questions about mental
health treatment in the past 12 months.
The survey found a strong relationship between substance abuse and mental problems.
Among adults with serious mental illness in 2001, 20.3 percent were dependent
on or abused alcohol or illicit drugs; the rate among adults without serious
mental illness was 6.3 percent. An estimated 3.0 million adults had both serious
mental illness and substance abuse or dependence problems during the year.
In 2001, there were an estimated 14.8 million adults age 18 or older with serious
mental illness. This represents 7.3 percent of all adults. Of this group with
serious mental illness, 6.9 million received mental health treatment in the
12 months prior to the interview.
In 2001, an estimated 4.3 million youths age 12 to 17 received treatment or
counseling for emotional or behavioral problems in the 12 months prior to the
interview. This represents 18.4 percent of this population and is significantly
higher than the 14.6 estimate for 2000. The reason cited most often by youths
for the latest mental health treatment session was "felt depressed" (44.9 percent
of youths receiving treatment), followed by "breaking rules or acting out" (22.4
percent), and "thought about or tried suicide" (16.6 percent).