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Teen & Adult Drug Use Statistics that will blow your mind

Posted by admin on July 25th, 2008 in Drug Usage

Drug use (and abuse) over the course of the twentieth century has fluctuated significantly. As new drugs have been introduced into the public, popularity has shifted between a number of legal and illegal substances. With these popularity shifts have come changes in social acceptance, legal tolerance, and use rates among the public.

Drugs Over the Decades

Dozens of illicit substances are used daily around the nation. 5 of these substances have emerged as the most popular (and therefore most abused) over the years. Looking at these drugs based on their number of users gives a clear picture of the magnitude of national popularity, as well as a clear snapshot of the past four decades of use.
Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health
A necessary compliment to the sheer number of users is the percentage of national population using these illicit drugs.
Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health
The most frightening trend that can be seen in this information is the rise in number of users over the course of the decades. Between 1979 and 2006, the total number of illicit drug users almost doubled. Correspondingly, the percentage of users (as a percent of total population) rose over 14%. So, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 50% of the US population has used illicit drugs at some point in their lives. Based on the most recent survey data, we can see that marijuana is by far the most popular substance used, making up almost half of all users nationwide.
Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health
The Big 5: 5 Major Drugs in the Twentieth Century
At this point, 40% of the US population has tried marijuana. The drug has seen its largest rise in use (by percentage) since 1979 in the last 5 years. Cannabis is considered a “less illegal” drug, with steps towards legalization being taken in various states. One specific example of this is Colorado’s attempt to decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The amendment failed by a margin of 60-40, similar to the Alaska’s attempt in 2004.
Cocaine/Crack Cocaine
Cocaine Cocaine
Cocaine became illegal, or “a controlled substance”, in 1970. The drug saw its peak use in the late 1990’s with the introduction of “crack cocaine” – sold primarily to poorer, inner city neighborhoods. It continues to be used by an increasing percentage of the population, showing that the drug is still gaining popularity, in rock and powder form. See how drug addiction rehabilitation  actually occurs.
First marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant by Bayer, at the turn of the 20th century, heroin quickly became a recreational drug for the masses. Made illegal in the US in 1970, the drug is considered one of the most addictive available. Since 1979, heroin has had consistent usage (as a percentage) by the US population, with need for heroin rehab becoming greater than ever.
Prescription Drugs
Prescription Pills

Prescription drugs have less data than the previous three substances, mainly due to the Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987. Previous to this act very little information is known, due to lack of regulation. But, since the act was enabled, knowledge of the abuse of prescription drugs has been widespread. In fact, prescription drug abuse has grown at a faster pace than any of the other major illicit substances.


Methamphetamines, or “Crystal Meth”, has been used legally and illegally since World War II. Usage peaked around 1980; the drug was produced and sold legally until 1986. The drug can be produced illegally with non-prescription drugs, which has lead to consistent levels of usage throughout the years. Attempts by the federal and state governments to curb usage have recently been more successful with the passing of the Patriot Act in 2005.


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