Illicit drug use initiation was highest for marijuana in 2016, followed by prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers and stimulants, according to national data.
“Whether someone engages in substance use is associated with several risk factors that are typically correlated with an increased likelihood of substance use (eg, perception of low risk of harm from using a substance, easy availability of substances) and protective factors that are typically associated with a decreased likelihood of substance use (eg, exposure to prevention messages),” Rachel N. Lipari, PhD, of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and colleagues wrote.
To determine risk, protective factors and estimates for substance use initiation, researchers analyzed data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) for individuals aged 12 years and older.
More than four out of five individuals perceived great risk for harm from weekly use of cocaine, heroin or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), while roughly one-third of individuals perceived great risk for harm from weekly marijuana use.
Overall, 68.3% of individuals perceived great risk for harm from consuming four or five alcoholic drinks nearly every day and 72.8% perceived great risk for harm from smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day.
Perception of risk varied across age groups. Approximately two out of five youths aged 12 to 17 years perceived great risk from weekly marijuana use compared with one out of six young adults aged 18 to 25 years.
Individuals who never used marijuana or cocaine were more likely to report greater perceived risk for harm from use.
Marijuana had the highest initiation rates in 2016 at 2.6 million new users, followed by prescription pain relievers (2.1 million new misusers), prescription tranquilizers (1.4 million new misusers), prescription stimulants (1.4 million new misusers), hallucinogens (1.2 million new users) and cocaine (1.1 million new users).
Initiation of marijuana use was higher in 2016 than 2002 through 2008, but similar to rates from 2009 to 2016.
In 2016, there were 4.6 million new users of alcohol; 1.8 million individuals who tried a cigarette for the first time; and 1.2 million individuals who used smokeless tobacco for the first time.
While these findings are useful for SAMHSA to gauge overall effectiveness of prevention efforts or policies, the researchers noted the data are not intended to determine efficacy of individual prevention programs or policies. – by Amanda Oldt
Lipari RN, et al. Risk and protective factors and estimates of substance use initiation: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. NSDUH Data Review. Available at: https://www.samhsa.gov/data. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.