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Substance Abuse

Prevalence And Incidence

International data suggest widespread and serious substance use and abuse. Within the United States, the annual National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) collects data on substance use patterns and trends among the general population. According to the 2001 NHSDA, 6.3 percent (14 million) of the U.S. population reported current use of illicit drugs (i.e., used an illicit drug at least once during the thirty days before the interview) (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2001). Among major racial/ethnic groups, the current rates for illicit drug use were 6.4 percent each for whites and African Americans and 5.3 percent for Hispanics/Latinos. The rate was highest among American Indian/Alaska Natives (12.6%), with Asians reporting the lowest rate (2.7%). Almost half (46.6%, approximately 104 million) of the U.S. population reported current use of alcohol. Almost 6 percent of the population (5.6%, 12.6 million) were heavy drinkers, consuming five or more drinks on one occasion in five or more days during the thirty days prior to interview.

Although trends in the United States and in other developing countries indicate either flat or declining alcohol use, rates are rising in many developing countries and in Central and Eastern Europe (World Health Organization 2001). One source has noted that "dangerous patterns of heavy drinking exist in most countries" (World Health Organization 2001, p. 1). With respect to illicit drug use, estimates for 1999 indicate 3 percent (180 million people) of the world's population consumed illicit substances (United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention 2001). The most commonly consumed substance was cannabis, used by 2.4 percent (144 million people) of the world's population.

Because of the widespread abuse of substances among the world's population, there are likely to be substantial family effects. The next section reviews some of these findings.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Health IssuesSubstance Abuse - Prevalence And Incidence, Effects Of Substance Abuse On Families, Family Factors Contributing To Risk And Resiliency