In its 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the federal Substance Abuse and Menal Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found 52.5 million – or one in five – people aged 12 and older used cannabis over the past year, making it the most used substance considered an illicit drug by the U.S. government.
The survey found 35.4% of individuals – or 11.8 million people – aged 18 to 25 used cannabis in 2021, along with 17.2% of those 26-and-older (37.9 million), and 10.5% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 (2.7 million).
Comparatively, 133.1 million people 12 and older consumed alcohol in 2021, with 45.1% considered binge drinkers (60 million). Individuals 18 to 25 reported the highest rate of binge drinking (29.2% or 9.8 million people), followed by individuals 26 or older (22.4% or 49.3 million people), then by those 12 to 17 years old. (3.8% or 995,000 people).
In a statement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said the survey’s findings “make clear” that “millions of Americans young and old faced mental health and substance use challenges – sometimes both at once – during the second year of the pandemic.”
“As we work to improve behavioral health across the nation, HHS is committed to ensuring that all people facing mental health or substance use challenges are connected to appropriate services and supports.” — Becerra in a press release
The survey found that 3.3% of individuals aged 12 or older in 2021, (or 9.2 million people) misused opioids (heroin or prescription pain relievers) in the past year and among those, 8.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers compared with 1.1 million people who used heroin. The numbers include 574,000 people who both misused prescription pain relievers and used heroin in the past year.
In a key piece of legislation passed last year, the American Rescue Plan, $3.8 billion was earmarked to address the nation’s mental health crisis and drug overdose epidemic, HHS said in the release. Another $800 million was earmarked through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act for SAMHSA grant programs.
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