Revisiting Surprising Statistics About Extra Medical Drug Use
Tags: cocaine marijuana National Comorbidity Survey psychoactive drugs tobacco
More than 10 years ago, the 1990-1992 National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) looked at the use of “extra-medical” drugs: alcohol, tobacco, psychoactive prescription drugs used outside of the prescribed purpose, and illegal drugs.
This study revisits that issue, analyzing more recent data from the 2001-2003 NCS-Replication (NCS-R). The face-to-face household survey collected responses from 5,692 English-speaking respondents who were 18 years of age or older (3,310 men, 2,382 women), using the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview.
Despite a decade-plus span dividing the two surveys, the similarities of drug use are noteworthy. Alcohol use was the same for both the NCS and NCS-R, at 92%. Tobacco use was at 76% (NCS) and 74% (NCS-R). Extra-medical use of psychoactive drugs was at 51% (NCS) and 45% (NCS-R). Marijuana use was at 46% (NCS) and 43% (NCS-R). Finally, cocaine use was at 16% for both the NCS and NCS-R.
Statistically notable associations were seen among all types of drug use and age, sex, income, employment, education, marital status, geography, religious affiliation and religiosity. Here are a few examples: 46% of the 1947-1957 age cohort reported having used marijuana as compared to 6% of the 1904-1942 group. Non-Hispanic Whites were most likely to engage in extra-medical use of other drugs compared to other race-ethnicity groups. Blacks were less likely than non-Hispanic Whites to have started smoking. Persons who had not attended college were most likely to have started tobacco use while less likely to have used alcohol or marijuana. Those who had never married were less likely to have started smoking, drinking or using extra-medical drugs. Those with high incomes were most likely to have engaged in extra-medical use of all drug types except cocaine. Residents of rural areas were just as likely to smoke and drink as city dwellers but less likely to use other drugs. Those for whom religion was less important were more likely to have used all drug types.
The authors note that, while these findings lead to no firm cause-and-effect interpretations, they do provide a foundation for further research into drug use across decades and birth populations.
(Degenhardt, L, Chiu, WT, Sampson, N, Kessler, RC, Anthony, JC: Epidemiological patterns of extra-medical drug use in the United States: Evidence from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, 2001-2003. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 90:210-223, 2007.)