DEALogo DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Briefing Book

Drug Use in the United States


This report presents the first results from the 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an annual survey conducted by SAMHSA.* The survey provides estimates of the prevalence of use of a variety of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, based on a nationally representative sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized population age 12 and older. In 1995, a sample of 17,747 persons were interviewed for the survey. Selected findings are given below:

DEA Statement Response
Illicit Drug Use Again, the DEA shows no concern for the much greater problems of alcohol and tobacco.
  • In 1995, an estimated 12.8 million Americans were current illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug in the month prior to interview. This represents no change from 1994 when the estimate was 12.6 million. The number of illicit drug users was at its highest level in 1979 when there were 25 million.
The DEA fails to note:
  • There are significant problems in any of these figures, for various reasons, including the fact that, as penalties for drug use go up, people are less likely to be honest about their answers.  See also the analysis of the General Accounting Office, Drug Use Measurement.
  • The great majority of these regular users are otherwise law-abiding marijuana users who have no apparent problems with their marijuana use.  Without clouding the issue by including those otherwise law-abiding marijuana users, the numbers of drug users would not be enough to justify the massive resources put behind the DEA and the drug war.
  • Between 1994 and 1995, there was a continuing increase in the rate of past month illicit drug use among youths, from 8.2 percent to 10.9 percent. The rate has doubled since 1992.
It would seem obvious that increasing penalties and increasing enforcement are not protecting the segment of our population which is most at risk. 
  • Significant increases in past month marijuana use (from 6.0 percent to 8.2 percent), cocaine use (from 0.3 percent to 0.8 percent), and hallucinogen use (from 1.1 percent to 1.7 percent) occurred among youth between 1994 and 1995.
Again, the tiny percentages using drugs other than marijuana would not justify a nationwide war.  And, again, it would seem obvious that tougher penalties and tougher enforcement have not worked to reduce drug use among children.
  • The overall number of current cocaine users did not change significantly between 1994 and 1995 (1.38 million in 1994 and 1.45 million in 1995). This is down from a peak of 5.7 million in 1985.
  • There were an estimated 582,000 (0.3 percent of the population) frequent cocaine users in 1995. Frequent use, defined as use on 51 or more days during the past year, was not significantly different than in 1994 (734,000) or 1985 (781,000). However, the estimated number of occasional cocaine users (people who used in the past year but on fewer than 12 days) has sharply declined from 7.1 million in 1985 to 2.5 million in 1995.
It should be noted that the DEA says 528,000 people who used cocaine, on average, more than once a week in the past year.  This is not the same as the number of people who really have a problem with cocaine which must certainly be much lower than 528,000. 

Again, without the millions of marijuana users, this would not be adequate justification for the massive resources of the DEA and its hysterical calls for tougher laws and greater limits on civil liberties.

  • There were an estimated 2.3 million people who started using marijuana in 1994. The annual number of marijuana initiates has risen since 1991.
Obviously, the intense campaigns against marijuana for the past 25 years have not been successful.  For the tale of an earlier failure and the problems it caused, see Operation Intercept.
  • Despite the substantial reduction in cocaine use since 1985, there were still an estimated 530,000 Americans who used cocaine for the first time in 1994.
The DEA fails to note that their efforts have had no significant on the number of hard-core cocaine users -- the real problem.

*Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, August 1996.


Travel back to the DRCNet Response to the DEA Home Page

Travel back to the DRCNet List of DEA Publications

Travel back to the Table of Contents