Commonly Misused Substances

Accordining to SAMHSA’s 2007 and 2008 National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month Kits:

Commonly Misused Substances: (218.3 million users)


Perhaps most alarming
is that the vast majority (89.2 percent) of new users were younger than 21 when they first consumed alcohol

  • More than half of people aged 12 or older (50.9 percent) reported that they were current alcohol drinkers in 2006.

  • Each day, there were an estimated 12,000 new alcohol users aged 12 or older, translating
    to approximately 4.4 million people who used alcohol for the first time in the past 12 months.

  • The vast majority (89.2 percent) of new users were younger than 21 when they first consumed alcohol.


  • The average age of first use of marijuana among people 12 to 49 was 17.4 years.

  • 14.8 million people aged 12 and over use marijuana.
Cocaine and “Crack”
  • Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain.

  • One form of cocaine is hydrochloric salt, a white powder that dissolves in water and can be taken either intravenously or through the nose. The other form, freebase (crack), is cocaine that has not been neutralized by an acid and can be smoked.

  • In 2006, 2.4 million people used cocaine and 706,000 used crack.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

  • Ecstasy is a synthetic illicit drug that causes both hallucinogenic and stimulant effects. It is generally sold as a tablet to be taken orally.

  • In 2006, 528,000 peopled used ecstacy.


  • Hallucinogens, including lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline, and psilocybin mushrooms, are drugs that disrupt a person’s ability to think and communicate rationally and can confuse one’s perception of reality.

  • Drugs such as phencyclidine (PCP) and ketamine, which were initially developed as general anesthetics for surgery, distort perceptions of sight and sound and produce feelings of detachment and dissociation from the environment and self.

  • In 2006, there were 1 million people who used hallucinogens.

Prescription Drugs

  • Reports indicate a growing concern about teens intentionally using prescription medicines to get high.

  • In 2006, an estimated 7 million people aged 12 or older, or 2.8 percent of the population, had used prescription
    psychotherapeutic medications nonmedically in the past month.

  • Since 2005, there has been an increase in the use of OxyContin® by 8th and 10th graders.

  • Nearly 1 in 7 youths between ages 12 and
    17 believe that there is little or no risk in taking methamphetamine (meth) on a regular basis.

 Central nervous system (CNS) depressants1

  • These drugs may be prescribed by physicians to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.

  • All CNS depressants work by slowing the brain’s activity.


  • Stimulants are used to increase alertness and physical activity.

  • Methamphetamine (meth) and amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants. They can be consumed orally or by smoking, snorting, intravenous injection, or inhalation.

  • The widespread production, distribution, and use of meth affect urban, suburban, and rural communities nationwide.

  • In 2006, there were 731,000 users of meth.


  • Heroin is processed from morphine. It can be injected, inhaled (snorted), or smoked.

  • Opioids are narcotics and include morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine. They are prescribed by physicians to treat pain from cancer, terminal illness, severe injury, or surgery.

  • In 2006, there were 338,000 heroin users.


  • The term “inhalants” refers to more than 1,000 different household and commercial products that can be intentionally misused by inhaling them through the mouth or nose for an intoxicating effect.

  • In 2006, 761,000 people used inhalants.

 Anabolic Steroids

  • Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone. They promote the growth of skeletal muscle and the development of male sexual characteristics.

  • Steroids can be taken orally or via needle injection.

  • It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people aged 18 and older misuse steroids at least once a year.


  • Researchers have identified more than 4,800 chemical compounds in tobacco smoke; of these, at least 69 cause cancers in humans and animals.

  • An estimated 72.9 million Americans were users of a tobacco products in 2006.

Produced by the Northeast ATTC, NAADAC, Central East ATTC, and the ATTC National Office.
Funded in part by a grant from SAMHSA/CSAT and a variety of other sponsors.