Epidemiology

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In the United States, the federal government annually conducts the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, using a sample of persons who are 12 years of age or older to determine the prevalence of licit and illicit drug use.1 In 2006, 8.3% of the American population (12 and older) had used an illicit drug within the previous month. Fifty percent of the population currently used alcohol, and 6.9% were heavy users. Tobacco use in Americans has stabilized, in recent years, to a rate of 29.6%. Unfortunately, use in the younger age groups remains high. In 2006, 35.6% of Americans in the 18-to 20-year-old range and 40.2% in the 21-to 25-year-old range reported using cigarettes within the previous month. The trends in prevalence of use for eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders are shown in Figure 36-1. The uses of any illicit drug and of marijuana have both decreased since 1999, but still remain higher than the minimum use recorded in 1992.

While initiation of the use of substances is often in middle and high school, chronic use may be established in young adulthood. The National Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey reported that 9.2% of its 18-to 29-year-old sample met criteria for alcohol dependence.

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