Drug Abuse Statistics

Statistics are numbers that convey information on subjects as varied as politics, oceanography and commercial retail sales. This data allows researchers to measure trends and test new ideas. As the phenomenon of drug abuse stubbornly continues to impose individual, familial and social dysfunction, experts look for the best ways to counter this plague. Statistics inform drug abuse professionals of the populations that are most prone to addiction, the popular drugs of choice among various age groups, rates of relapse after treatment and education levels among abusers. With this information in hand, drug policymakers can design more effective prevention and treatment programs than they might otherwise.

Drug Abuse Statistics Quiz question 1


Although public health data for the current year takes time to analyze, estimates for 2012 can be projected based on measuring the trends of previous years. For example, the Uniform Crime Reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation determine that-if past patterns are unchanged-725,160 people were arrested on drug-related crime from the beginning of the year until the end of May. When the final numbers are tabulated in subsequent years, that five month period’s estimate may be adjusted. For the time being, it tells law enforcement how many resources should be directed towards interdiction and apprehension.

The Republic of Korea compiles its statistics quarterly. This allows the trends of the first three months of 2012 to be measured. The Supreme Prosecutor’ Narcotics Division, for instance, found a marked increase of 26.2 percent in offenses related to marijuana use. Psychotropic drug arrests, on the other hand, rose more modestly from the previous quarter by 16.1 percent. Apprehensions for crimes limited to the possession of narcotics remained unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2011. Such numbers raise questions about a growing population of pot smokers in Korea.

Drug Abuse Statistics Quiz question 2


The year 2011 provided some bright spots in the fight against drug abuse. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration presented statistics that demonstrated a substantial dip in drug use among teens in virtually every substance category. This reduction in the use of illegal substances by youth meant police could allocate their enforcement resources to other age groups, while prevention programs could claim credit-and funding-after a successful decade of outreach to young people.

Drug Abuse Statistics Quiz question 3

Still, the pressures of the teen years do show up in drug abuse facts. The use of amphetamines increased among high school seniors to a level of 8.2 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While that statistic alone could have been influenced by several factors, over-scheduling and intensified academic competition were prime suspects in this rise. Among high school students, OxyContin use for non-medical purposes neither rose nor fell. Such stagnancy may reveal that educational programs are having moderate success but might need some modifications.


More telling than individual years is evaluating the numbers over a decade. Again, the DEA arrest statistics make informative drug facts. A steady downward trend is observed from a high of 39,770 in 2000 to 30,922 in 2010. To accurately understand this pattern, an analyst must account for the DEA’s budget and enforcement practices, as well as the public appetite for illegal drugs. Other variables can affect the decision to take illicit drugs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration conducts an annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In 2010, this study discerned drug abuse among those being treated for some form of mental illness. Their instances of drug use more than doubled those of the group that did not receive treatment-25.8 percent to 12.1 percent. This data raises questions about current treatment methods. In any case, mental illness may leave its victims more susceptible to destructive drug use.

Drug Abuse Statistics Quiz question 4

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America provided statistics of a different sort. The decade ending with 2010 saw a drop in parents who were proactive in communicating an anti-drug message to their children. Slightly over 30 percent of surveyed parents admitted to avoiding the subject altogether. Further troubling drug prevention advocates were the parents who did not monitor the use of over-the-counter drugs found in the medicine cabinet. Although one in ten teens confessed to using cough syrup to get high, only half the parents were paying attention to the amount consumed.

Drug Abuse Statistics Quiz question 5Drug Abuse Statistics Quiz question 6

Prior to 2000

Drug abuse has plagued the American continent since the 1800s, when morphine, heroin and cocaine were hailed for their amazing curative properties. By the mid-20th century, however, illicit drug use was all but eradicated in the U.S. through focused national and global suppression of the industry. All that changed in the 1960s when many new and exotic drugs, such as hallucinogens, amphetamines and marijuana, became more readily available.

The proliferation of these substances birthed many government agencies, all commissioned to counter the scourge of illegal drugs. These bureaucracies, in turn, needed statistical information in order to effectively understand the scope of their task. In due course, they discovered that:

  • Between 1980 and 1984, first-time cocaine users averaged 1.3 million per year
  • By 1994, that number dwindled to 533,000
  • In 1995, 5,000,000 Americans confessed to smoking marijuana on a frequent basis
  • In 1996, the Office of Drug Control Policy detected an increase in heroin use among youth and young adults
  • Between 1992 and 1993, 5.5 percent of pregnant women per year took some form of illicit drug

Statistics convey both good news and bad news regarding drug abuse. Although scientists and other researchers can draw subjective conclusions from time to time, most of the numbers generated have helped them get a clearer picture of the drug abuse problem.

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