The rates of marijuana use are mostly responsible for the increase in the use of illicit drugs in the United States over the past years.
- Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used for the first time. Approximately 7,000 people try marijuana for the first time every day.
- Out of 2.6 million people who tried marijuana for the first time, over half were under the age of 18.
- The majority of youths aged 12 to 17 do not perceive a great risk from smoking marijuana.
- Marijuana had the highest rates of dependence out of all illicit substances in 2011.
In the period from 2006 to 2011, cocaine use (including crack) decreased considerably by nearly a million users. Cocaine has one of the highest addiction rates among illicit drugs.
- Approximately 1,800 people 12 and older tried cocaine for the first time in 2011.
- In 2011, over 800,000 Americans reported having an addiction to cocaine.
- The largest amount of illicit drug-related emergency room visits in 2011 were cocaine-related (over 500,000 visits).
- Cocaine is also the most common drug found in addition to alcohol in alcohol-related emergency room visits.
- Cocaine use is highest among Americans aged 18 to 25.
Heroin has long had a stigma of being one of the most dangerous drugs. Aside from there being a risk of addiction and overdose, there is also an increased risk of contracting blood-borne diseases such as HIV.
- The number of Americans with an addiction to heroin nearly doubled from 2007 to 2011.
- It is estimated that 80% of new hepatitis C infections occur among those who use drugs intravenously, such as heroin users.
- Nearly half of those who use heroin reportedly started abusing prescription painkillers before they ever used heroin.
- Over a quarter million drug-related emergency room visits are related to heroin abuse.
Prescription medication abuse holds a lot of potential for people to develop addictions. These drugs can be easier to obtain than other drugs. Prescriptions, especially painkillers, have a high potential to lead to the use of more dangerous substances like heroin.
- The sale of painkillers has increased by over 300% since 1999.
- Tens of millions of Americans use prescription medications non-medically every year.
- Almost 3 out of 4 prescription overdoses are caused by painkillers. In 2009, 1 in 3 prescription painkiller overdoses was caused by methadone.
- Overdoses caused by painkillers are more common than heroin and cocaine overdoses combined.
- Over half of the people abusing prescribed drugs got them from a friend or relative. Over 17% were prescribed the medication.
- The number of people receiving treatment for addiction to painkillers and sedatives has doubled since 2002.
Amphetamines and methamphetamines are an extremely dangerous class of drugs that are central nervous system stimulants. While amphetamines are typically acquired through a prescription, methamphetamines are classified as an illicit substance in the same class as cocaine.
- In 2010, around 13 million people have abused methamphetamines in their life and approximately 350,000 people were regular users. This number increased by over 80,000 the following year.
- There were approximately 160,000 amphetamine and methamphetamine-related emergency room visits in 2011.
- Use of amphetamines is increasing among college students. One study across a hundred colleges showed nearly 7% of college students use amphetamines illegally. Over 25% of students reported use in the past year.
- A study by UCLA revealed that methamphetamines release nearly 4 times as much dopamine as cocaine, which means the substance is much more addictive.