In 2022, 25% of Americans ages 12 and older used illegal drugs

Nearly a quarter of people ages 12 and older in the United States have used illicit drugs in the past year, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health released Monday.

Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug, especially vaping marijuana among adolescents ages 12 to 17, the survey found.


What you need to know

  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2022, 70.3 million people aged 12 years or older (24.9%) used illicit drugs in the past year
  • More than 17% had a substance abuse disorder
  • 1 in 4 adults aged 18 and over had a mental illness last year
  • Nearly 20% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 had a depressive episode last year

“There are currently more than 48 million Americans struggling with substance abuse, and three in four are not getting the treatment they need. That's tens of millions of Americans in every state across the country,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, White House drug policy director, looked sad Monday at an event announcing the study results.

“This is not a red state or blue state issue,” Dr. Gupta said. “It's America's issue.”

The study found that 48.7% of people aged 12 years and older drank alcohol, 18.1% used tobacco products, 8.3% vaped nicotine and 16.3% used an illegal drug in the past month at the time the survey was administered.

Approximately 17.3% of individuals aged 12 years and older had a substance use disorder, with alcohol use disorder being the most common.

Three percent of respondents said they had abused opioids such as heroin or prescription painkillers in the past year. Opioid misuse was highest among multiracial (4.5%), black (4.1%), Hispanic (3.4%), and white (3%) people.

“The opioid crisis remains one of the greatest public health challenges in the United States,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. More than 109,000 Americans will die from drug overdoses in 2022, two-thirds of them from synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, he added.

Becerra said he went before the Senate Appropriations Committee last week to advocate for President Biden's urgent supplemental budget request.

Following the release of the study results, the Biden-Harris administration reiterated its call for Congress to strengthen addiction treatment and crack down on drug trafficking – the two leading causes of overdoses. The White House is asking Congress to approve $1.55 billion to strengthen addiction treatment, overdose protection and recovery support services, as well as $1.2 billion to reduce drug trafficking.

Becerra said Health and Human Services has already spent more than $2.5 billion in the past two years on treating and supporting mental health and substance use disorders, including increased funding for school-based counselors and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

The National Survey shows that suicidal thoughts among young people have increased compared to 2021. Nearly 1 in 4 adults aged 18 or older indicate that they have had psychological problems in the past year; 1 in 20 said they had serious thoughts of suicide.

Nearly 20% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 have had a depressive episode in the past year; One in eight had serious suicidal thoughts in the past year and one in fifteen made suicide plans. Nearly 1 in 25 had attempted suicide.

For its annual survey, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration surveyed 71,369 respondents aged 12 or older. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted annually since 1971, is the leading source of statistical data on self-reported substance use and mental health among non-institutionalized people aged 12 years or older.

Despite the alarming numbers, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Leader Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon said her organization is “encouraged by the millions of Americans reporting they are in recovery.”

According to the survey, more than 70% of adults who perceived they had substance use problems and more than two in three adults with mental health problems believed they were in recovery.

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