Almost a quarter of people aged 12 and older in the United States used illicit drugs in the past year, according to the newest National Survey on Drug Use and Health released Monday.

Marijuana was the most used illicit drug, especially marijuana vaping among adolescents aged 12 to 17, the survey found.

What You Need To Know

  • In 2022, 70.3 million people aged 12 or older (24.9%) used illicit drugs in the past year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health

  • More than 17% had a substance use disorder

  • 1 in 4 adults aged 18 and older had any mental illness last year

  • Almost 20% of adolescents age 12 to 17 had a major depressive episode last year

“There are currently more than 48 million Americans struggling with substance use disorder, and three out of every four are not getting the treatment that they need. That’s tens of millions of Americans in every state across the country,” White House Drug Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta sad Monday at an event announcing the survey results.

“This is not a red state or a blue state issue," said Dr. Gupta. "It’s America’s issue.”

The survey found that 48.7% of people aged 12 and older drank alcohol, 18.1% used tobacco products, 8.3% vaped nicotine and 16.3% used an illicit drug within the last month at the time the survey was taken.

About 17.3% of those aged 12 and older had a substance use disorder, the most common being alcohol use disorder. 

Three percent of those surveyed said they misused opioids such as heroin or prescription painkillers in the past year. Misuse of opioids was highest among multiracial (4.5%), Black (4.1%), Hispanic (3.4%) and White (3%) people.

“The opioid crisis remains one of the greatest public health challenges in the United States,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said. More than 109,000 Americans died of drug-involved overdoses in 2022, two-thirds of them involving synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, he added.

Becerra said he went before the Senate Appropriations committee last week to make a cause for President Biden’s emergency supplemental budget request.

Following the release of the survey results, the Biden-Harris Administration reiterated its call for Congress to strengthen addiction treatment and to crack down on the trafficking of drugs — the two main drivers of overdoses. The White House is requesting Congress authorize $1.55 billion to bolster addiction treatment, overdose protections and recovery support services, as well as $1.2 billion to reduce drug trafficking.

Becerra said Health and Human Services over the past two years has already directed more than $2.5 billion toward the treatment and support of mental health and substance use disorders, including more funding for counselors in schools and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

The National Survey found suicidal thoughts among young people increased compared with 2021. Almost 1 in 4 adults aged 18 or older reported having any mental issue in the past year; 1 in 20 said they had serious thoughts of suicide.

Almost 20% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 had a major depressive episode within the past year; 1 in 8 had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, and 1 in 15 made suicide plans. Almost 1 in 25 had attempted suicide.

For its annual survey, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration surveyed 71,369 respondents aged 12 or older. Conducted every year since 1971, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health is the main source of statistical data about self-reported substance use and mental health among noninstitutionalized people aged 12 or older.

Despite the alarming numbers, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration leader Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon said her agency is “encouraged by the millions of Americans who report they’re in recovery.”

According to the survey, more than 70% of adults who perceived themselves to have substance use challenges and more than 2 in 3 adults with mental health issues considered themselves to be in recovery.