How has Drug Abuse Changed in the Last Decade?

For hundreds of years, drugs have been abused all over the world. As the years go by, trends in the types of drugs and demographics of users often change. The data we have on drug use can help us have an idea of what drug use will look like in the next few years, and can help us become better equipped to fight drug abuse in our communities.  

As we enter into a new decade, the 20s, let’s compare recent drug use statistics to those from the beginning of the 10s.

The Most Commonly Used Drug

2010: Worldwide, recreational marijuana is consistently the most commonly used drug, and it was no different for the US in 2010. 17.4 million Americans reported being current users of marijuana. The second most commonly abused drugs were psychotherapeutics with 7 million users, followed by cocaine with 1.5 million users, hallucinogens with 1.2 million, inhalants with approximately 700, 000, and heroin with approximately 200, 000.

2019: Throughout the 2010s, drug use in America had increased slightly. Marijuana remained the most commonly abused drug throughout the decade and had 19.8 million users by 2019. Prescription drugs were second with 6.5 million nonmedical users, followed by cocaine with 1.5 million users, hallucinogens with 1.3 million users, methamphetamine with approximately 595, 000, and heroin with around 300, 000,

Who Uses the Most Drugs?

2010: According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.6 million Americans over the age of 12 had reported using some sort of illicit drug in the past month. People aged 18-20 were the highest users, with 23.1% having reported being a current user of drugs, while those in the 65+ age range were the lowest users, with only 1.1% reporting being drug users. Men tended to use more often than women, and people living in large metropolitan areas were most likely to be users.

2019: Men continue to be more likely than women to abuse drugs. 14.8% of people aged 18-16 reported using, while a total of only around 1 million people aged 65+ had reported the same. In the past decade, heroin abuse in young adults under 25 had doubled.

Changes in Opioid Use

2010: The second wave of the opioid crisis had just begun. 2010 saw medical professionals attempt to make opioids more difficult to obtain, so many addicts turned to heroin instead. Unsurprisingly, the country began to see a sharp increase in the amount of heroin-related deaths. In fact, deaths due to heroin-related overdoses rose by 286% from the decade prior.

2019: By the end of the decade, opioid use in the country was at an all-time high. Around 130 people die each day from opioid misuse. States have begun to implement strict laws around prescribing opioid pain relievers, and the Department of Health and Human Services is focusing on five major priorities in an attempt to solve the epidemic, while the National Institute of Health is working with pharmaceutical companies.