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Consequences of Illicit Drug Use in America

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2010
2 pages
This fact sheet uses the most recent available statistics to describe the consequences of illicit drug use in America.
Results indicate that in 2007, 38,371 people died of drug-induced causes, including causes directly involving drugs, such as accidental poisoning or overdoses, but not including accidents, homicides, AIDS, and other causes indirectly related to drugs; in 2007, 1 in 8 (12.4 percent) weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for at least 1 illicit drug; annual averages for 2002- 2007 indicate that over 8.3 million youth under 18 years of age, or almost 1 in 8 youth (11.9 percent), lived with at least 1 parent who was dependent on alcohol or an illicit drug in the past year; significantly fewer youth in school who are current marijuana users report an average grade of "A" (12.5 percent) compared to those who are not current marijuana users (30.5 percent); college students who abuse prescription stimulant medications typically have lower grade point averages, are more likely to be heavy drinkers and users of other illicit drugs, and are more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for dependence on alcohol and marijuana, skip class more frequently, and spend less time studying; the economic cost of drug abuse in the United States was estimated at $180.9 billion in 2002; in 2009, 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older (9.3 percent) needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem; in 2008, an estimated 2 million visits to emergency departments in U.S. hospitals were associated with drug misuse or abuse, including close to 1 million visits involving an illicit drug; a 2009 study reported that drug use among the arrestee population is much higher than in the general U.S. population; and finally, there are significant environmental impacts from clandestine methamphetamine drug labs, including chemical toxicity, risk of fire and explosion, lingering effects of toxic waste, and potential injuries.