Professional News
Few Receiving Treatment For Substance Abuse
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 21 page 13-13

One out of 10 teenagers reports using illicit drugs, though prevalence rates for current drug use by adolescents have fallen since 2002. Rates have, however, increased slightly for middle-aged adults. Only about 10 percent of either group get treated for substance-abuse problems.

Illicit drug use among teenagers continued on a gradual decline that began in 2002, while use among baby boomers rose slightly, according to the results of a government survey released in September. The study also showed that as recently as last year, just 10 percent of all drug or alcohol abusers in the United States received treatment at a specialized facility.

According to data from the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2002, 11.6 percent of youth between 12 and 17 reported using an illicit drug currently (in the past month). last year, 9.9 percent were current illicit drug users. Current marijuana use, which accounts for the majority of all illicit drug use, has dropped from 8.2 percent in 2002 to 6.8 percent in 2005 for this age group.

“The trends among young people are encouraging,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a press release issued in September by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the organization that sponsors the annual survey. “We know prevention activities must start with our children. There is more to be done, and we must build on our work to ensure that children and their parents understand that they must live free of drugs and alcohol to be healthy.”

Each year, SAMHSA surveys approximately 67,500 people in their homes to estimate national drug use rates and prevalence and the prevalence of alcohol and substance use disorders and other mental health problems.

Researchers from RTI International, a research firm located in Research Triangle Park, N.C., collect the data, which are then extrapolated to population estimates.


Among adults aged 50 to 59, current drug use rose from 2.7 percent in 2002 to 4.4 percent last year.

In addition, an estimated 19.7 million Americans aged 12 and older used an illicit drug during the past month, representing 8 percent of the population.

Marijuana was far and away the most commonly used illicit drug among survey respondents, with an estimated 14.6 million past-month users (see chart).

There were an estimated 9 million people 12 and older who were current users of drugs other than marijuana in 2005.

The majority of these (6.4 million) used prescription drugs for recreational purposes. For instance, 4.7 million used painkillers, 1.8 million used tranquilizers, and 1.1 million used stimulants; some used more than one drug. The most prevalent source of these prescription medications was through relatives or friends who had been prescribed them (for almost 60 percent of respondents), and 17 percent reported that they obtained the drug through a doctor. Only 4.3 percent said they obtained the medications from a drug dealer or stranger.


Over half of Americans aged 12 or older reported being current alcohol drinkers in 2005 (51.8 percent). This translates to an estimated 126 million people. In 2004, there were 121 million current drinkers.

In 2005, about 46 percent of young adults aged 21 to 25 engaged in binge drinking, which is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages on the same occasion on at least one day during the past month.

Heavy alcohol use (defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion on each of five or more days in the past month) was reported by 15.3 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25. These rates have remained stable since 2002.

Also, in 2005, an estimated 13 percent of people aged 12 and older (31.7 million people) drove under the influence of alcohol at least once during the past year.

An estimated 22.2 million people aged 12 or older were classified with substance abuse or dependence last year. Of these, 3.3 million were classified with dependence or abuse of both alcohol and drugs, 3.6 million were dependent or abused drugs alone, and 15.4 million were dependent on or abused alcohol alone.

Survey questions about dependence on drugs or alcohol addressed health and emotional problems linked to substance use, unsuccessful attempts to cut down on use, tolerance, withdrawal, reducing other activities to use substances, spending a great deal of time engaging in activities related to substance use, or using substances in greater quantities or for a longer duration of time than was intended.

Questions about abuse addressed problems at work, home, and school, problems with family or friends, physical danger, and trouble with the law due to substance use.

There were an estimated 3.9 million people aged 12 or older who received some kind of treatment for a problem related to the use of alcohol or drugs in 2005. Of these, 1.5 million received treatment for the use of both alcohol and drugs, 700,000 received treatment for a drug problem, and 1.3 million were treated for an alcohol problem.

An estimated 23.2 million people aged 12 or older needed treatment for a drug or alcohol problem last year, according to the survey, yet only 2.3 million received care at a specialty treatment facility.

The survey defined respondents as needing treatment for an alcohol or drug use problem if they met DSM-IV criteria for dependence on or abuse of alcohol or drugs in the past year or if they received specialty treatment for alcohol or drug use in the past year.

Based on combined data from the 2004 and 2005 surveys, the five most common reasons for not receiving treatment for a drug or alcohol problem included the following: respondents felt they were not ready to stop using (37.9 percent); they experienced cost or insurance barriers (35 percent); experienced stigma related to the drug or alcohol problem and need for treatment (24 percent); did not know where to go for treatment (14 percent).

The 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health is posted at<oas.samhsa.gov/nsduh/2k5nsduh/2k5Results.htm>.

Interactive Graphics


Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).
Related Articles