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Will Godfrey Will Godfrey

Graphics: How Levels of Teen Drug Use and Addiction Are Falling

These charts, based on newly released federal data, give plenty of grounds for optimism.

12 Substance

Figures released yesterday by the Department of Health and Human Services show that, alarmist headlines notwithstanding, US drug use is continuing to trend in a less harmful direction. Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post broke down the new data, provided by the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, with the help of a super-clear set of graphics covering the period 2002-2013.

For a start, some of the drug use that causes the most consternation—that of teenagers—is clearly declining. Their regular use of the legal drugs alcohol, tobacco and painkillers, in particular, has plunged:


Teen marijuana use also fell, relatively slowly, during the same period—despite significantly fewer teenagers believing that marijuana use is “risky” compared with a decade ago (food for thought when it comes to current attempts to scare teens away from weed):


Among all Americans over the age of 12, levels of drug use have remained roughly stable. A slight increase in illegal drug use is mainly accounted for by a very modest rise in the popularity of marijuana, while tobacco is the only major substance to become significantly less popular over this period:


But the best news of all concerns the continuing drop in certain addiction rates. For all Americans aged 12 and up, levels of alcohol and marijuana dependency—both drugs that have become slightly more popular among adults but less popular among teenagers—have fallen: