More Than Two-Thirds of U.S. Residents Who First Started Using Drugs in the Past Year Began with Marijuana

3660323722% Started with Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs

An estimated 3.1 million persons ages 12 or older—an average of approximately 8,400 per day—used a drug other than alcohol for the first time in the past year, according to data from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

More than two-thirds (68%) of these new users reported that marijuana was the first drug they tried.

Slightly more than one-fifth (22%) reported that prescription drugs used non-medically were the first drug they tried, including 14% with pain relievers, 4% with tranquilizers, 3% with stimulants, and 1% with sedatives.

Less than 10% reported that their first use of drugs involved inhalants and hallucinogens, and very few initiates started using with cocaine or heroin.

These findings suggest that drug use prevention efforts might focus on marijuana and the nonmedical use of prescription drugs, as these are the drugs that are most often used first.

SOURCE: Adapted by CESAR from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, 2012. Available online at

Prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused category of drugs, behind alcohol and marijuana and ahead of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Some prescription drugs can become addictive, especially when used in a manner inconsistent with their labeling by someone other than the patient for whom they were prescribed, or when taken in a manner or dosage other than prescribed. To learn more about what NCADD has to say about prescription drugs, click here.



No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Monday, 27 May 2019

Facing Addiction and The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) are proud to announce the merger of our organizations – creating a national leader in turning the tide on the addiction epidemic.
The merged organization will be called:

logo v2

Learn More