50 Average Age of Substance Abuse Statistics

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, and the average age of first use is 18 years old.

Posted on
August 23, 2023
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Top 10 Average Age of Substance Abuse Statistics

  • Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance worldwide, and the average age of first use is 14.5 years old. Around 33% of high school students report drinking alcohol in the past month, and about 20% report binge drinking.
  • Tobacco is the second most commonly abused substance, and the average age of first use is 16 years old. Around 16% of high school students report smoking cigarettes in the past month.
  • Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, and the average age of first use is 18 years old. Around 22% of high school students report using marijuana in the past month.
  • Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem, and the average age of first use is 22 years old. Around 15% of high school students report using prescription drugs without a prescription in the past year.
  • Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant, and the average age of first use is 20 years old. Around 2% of high school students report using cocaine in the past year.
  • Heroin is a highly addictive opioid, and the average age of first use is 23 years old. Around 0.5% of high school students report using heroin in the past year.
  • Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant, and the average age of first use is 19 years old. Around 1% of high school students report using methamphetamine in the past year.
  • Ecstasy is a synthetic drug that produces feelings of euphoria, and the average age of first use is 20 years old. Around 2% of high school students report using ecstasy in the past year.
  • Hallucinogens are drugs that alter perception and mood, and the average age of first use is 18 years old. Around 5% of high school students report using hallucinogens in the past year.
  • Inhalants are substances that produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to produce mind-altering effects, and the average age of first use is 16 years old. Around 9% of high school students report using inhalants in the past year.

Average Age of Substance Abuse by Gender

  • Alcohol: males - 14.8 years old (35%); females - 14.1 years old (31%)
  • Tobacco: males - 15.9 years old (18%); females - 16.2 years old (14%)
  • Marijuana: males - 17.9 years old (25%); females - 18.1 years old (20%)
  • Prescription drugs: males - 22.5 years old (17%); females - 21.6 years old (13%)
  • Cocaine: males - 19.6 years old (3%); females - 20.3 years old (1%)
  • Heroin: males - 23.1 years old (0.7%); females-22.7(0,4%)years
  • Methamphetamine: males-20,2years(1,4%), female-18,9(0,7%)years
  • Ecstasy: males-20,6(2%), female-19,4(1%)years
  • Hallucinogens :males-18,5(5%), female-17,6(4%)years
  • Inhalants :males-16,4(10%), female-15,6(8%)years

Countries with the Youngest Reported Ages of Drug Use Initiation

  • Russia: Russia has the youngest reported age of drug use initiation in the world, with an average age of just 12 years old. This is largely due to the widespread availability of cheap and potent synthetic drugs such as krokodil.
  • United States: The United States has one of the highest rates of substance abuse in the world, with an average age of first use at 14.5 years old. This can be attributed to a variety of factors, including easy access to drugs and alcohol and a culture that often glamorizes substance use.
  • Canada: Canada has an average age of first drug use at 15.2 years old, with marijuana being the most commonly used drug among young people.
  • Australia: Australia has an average age of first drug use at 15.6 years old, with alcohol and marijuana being the most commonly used substances among young people.
  • United Kingdom: The United Kingdom has an average age of first drug use at 16 years old, with marijuana being the most commonly used drug among young people.
Grouped Bar Graph: Drug Usership Among Americans Aged 12 and Older: Marijuana (45.7% used in a lifetime; 17.9% used in the last year; 11.8% used in the last month), Cocaine (14.2% used in a lifetime; 1.9% used in the last year; 0.7% used in the last month), LSD (10.2%; 1.0%;), Ecstasy (7.4%; 0.9%; 0.2%), Methamphetamine (5.6%; 0.9%; 0.6%), and Heroin (2.3%; 0.3%; 0.2%) on NCDAS

Countries with the Oldest Reported Ages of Drug Use Initiation

  • Japan: Japan has one of the oldest reported ages of drug use initiation in the world, with an average age of 21 years old. The country has strict drug laws and a cultural emphasis on conformity, which may contribute to its low rates of substance abuse.
  • South Korea: South Korea also has an older reported age of drug use initiation, with an average age of 19 years old. The country has similarly strict drug laws and a strong emphasis on academic achievement, which may discourage young people from experimenting with drugs.
  • Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia has an average age of first drug use at 24 years old, with cannabis being the most commonly used illicit drug among young people. The country's conservative Islamic culture and harsh penalties for drug offenses likely contribute to the low rates of substance abuse.
  • China: China has an average age of first drug use at 22 years old, with synthetic drugs like methamphetamine and ketamine becoming increasingly popular among young people. However, the country's strict anti-drug policies and severe punishments for offenders have helped keep overall rates of substance abuse relatively low.
  • Singapore: Singapore has one of the highest ages for first drug use in Asia, with an average age of 23 years old. The country's tough anti-drug stance includes mandatory drug testing for students and lengthy prison sentences for those caught using or selling drugs. As a result, Singapore has some of the lowest rates of substance abuse in the world.

Adolescent Substance Abuse Facts

  • In the United States, over 3 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, and many turn to substance abuse as a way of coping.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 high school seniors has used an illicit drug in the past month, with marijuana being the most commonly used substance.
  • More than half of teenagers who misuse prescription drugs get them for free from friends or family members.
  • Teenagers who start using drugs before age 15 are five times more likely to develop a substance use disorder than those who wait until they're older.
  • Adolescents who drink alcohol are more likely to experience academic problems, engage in risky sexual behavior, and be involved in car crashes.

Marijuana Use Among Students Statistics

  • About 22% of high school students report using marijuana in the past month.
  • Among high school seniors, around 35% report having used marijuana in the past year.
  • The percentage of teenagers who perceive regular marijuana use as harmful has been steadily decreasing over the years. In 2019, only 44.8% of 12th graders believed that regular marijuana use was harmful, compared to 58.3% in 2009.
  • Studies have shown that marijuana use during adolescence can negatively impact brain development and lead to cognitive impairments later in life.
  • According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, students who reported using marijuana before age 17 were more likely to experience depression and suicidal thoughts in young adulthood than those who did not use marijuana.

Drug Abuse Arrests by Age Group

  • Ages 10-17: 4.1%
  • Ages 18-25: 29.6%
  • Ages 26-34: 32.2%
  • Ages 35-49: 23.9%
  • Ages 50 and over: 10.2%

Drug Abuse Deaths Among Teenagers and Young Adults Worldwide

  • Every year, drug abuse causes the deaths of tens of thousands of teenagers and young adults around the world.
  • In the United States alone, there were over 5,000 drug overdose deaths among people aged 15 to 24 in 2018.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that globally, approximately 1 in 20 deaths among people aged 15 to 29 can be attributed to drug use.
  • In Europe, drug-related deaths are highest among young adults aged 25 to 39. In some countries, such as Estonia and Norway, the rate of drug-related deaths among this age group is over four times higher than the European average.
  • In Australia, drug-related deaths have been steadily increasing since the early 2000s. In 2019, there were over 2,000 drug-induced deaths in the country, with young adults aged 20 to 29 being particularly at risk.
  • In South Africa, drug abuse is a growing problem among young people. According to a survey conducted by the country's Central Drug Authority, nearly half of all drug-related deaths in South Africa occur among people under the age of 30.
  • The prevalence of synthetic drugs like fentanyl has contributed to an increase in drug overdose deaths among young people in many parts of the world. Between 2015 and 2017, there was a nearly fourfold increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths among people aged 15 to 24 in Canada.

Drug Abuse Statistics

  • Over 20 million Americans aged 12 and older have a substance use disorder. That's approximately 1 in every 13 people.
  • In 2019, nearly 71,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. That's a 4.8% increase from the previous year.
  • Opioids were involved in over two-thirds of all drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2019.
  • The economic cost of substance abuse in the United States is estimated to be over $740 billion annually due to lost productivity, healthcare costs, and criminal justice costs.
  • In Europe, it is estimated that around 1 million years of healthy life are lost each year due to drug-related deaths and disabilities.
  • Globally, an estimated 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders.
  • Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug worldwide, with an estimated 192 million users in 2020.
  • Methamphetamine use has been increasing globally. Between 2015 and 2019, there was a nearly threefold increase in methamphetamine seizures reported by countries around the world.
  • Approximately one-third of people who receive treatment for substance abuse also have mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety.
 Figure 1 is a butterfly bar graph displaying the number and percentage of children aged 17 or younger living with at least one parent with a past year substance use disorder, by age group and household composition, for 2009 to 2014. The total number of children aged 17 or younger who lived with at least one parent with a past year substance use disorder was 8.7 million (12.3 percent). Of the total, 1.5 million (12.8 percent) children were aged 0 to 2, 1.4 million (12.1 percent) were aged 3 to 5, 2.8 million (11.8 percent) were aged 6 to 11, and 3.0 million (12.5 percent) were aged 12 to 17. Of the children aged 17 or younger who lived with at least one parent with a past year substance use disorder, 7.0 million (13.9 percent) had two parents in the household, 1.7 million (8.4 percent) had one parent in the household, 1.4 million (7.8 percent) had one parent, a mother, in the household, and 344,000 (11.8 percent) had one parent, a father, in the household.

Children Living With a Parent Who Had a Substance Use Disorder

  • Children living with a parent who had a substance use disorder are at higher risk for developing mental health problems and substance abuse issues later in life.
  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 8.7 million children under the age of 18 lived with a parent who had a substance use disorder in 2019.
  • This represents approximately 12% of all children in the United States.
  • The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that among children living with a parent who had a substance use disorder, over half (56%) reported having experienced physical or emotional abuse or neglect in the past year.
  • Children living with a parent who had a substance use disorder are also more likely to experience poverty, homelessness, and family instability.
  • These factors can have lasting impacts on their physical health, academic performance, and overall well-being.

FAQs

What factors influence the average age of substance abuse?

The average age of substance abuse can be influenced by a variety of factors, including cultural attitudes towards drug use, availability and accessibility of drugs, peer pressure, mental health issues, and socioeconomic status.

Why is it important to know the average age of substance abuse?

Understanding the average age of substance abuse can help identify at-risk populations and inform prevention efforts. It can also help healthcare providers tailor treatment options for individuals struggling with substance abuse.

Is there a difference in the average age of substance abuse between urban and rural areas?

Research has shown that rates of substance abuse tend to be higher in urban areas compared to rural areas. However, this does not necessarily mean that the average age of substance abuse is significantly different between these two settings.

Can early intervention prevent or reduce rates of substance abuse among young people?

Early intervention can play a critical role in preventing or reducing rates of substance abuse among young people. This includes education programs aimed at increasing awareness about the dangers of drug use, providing access to mental health resources and support services, and implementing policies that restrict access to drugs and alcohol for minors.

Conclusion

Substance abuse is a major problem worldwide, and the average age of first use varies depending on the type of substance and the country in question.

Alcohol and tobacco are the most commonly abused substances, and their average age of first use is relatively low. It is important to educate people, especially young people, about the dangers of substance abuse and to provide them with the tools they need to make healthy choices.

References

https://sbtreatment.com/addiction-and-age-groups-guide/#:~:text=The%20most%20common%20age%20group,the%20majority%20of%20government%20data.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5225546/

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2761302

https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-statistics/

https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Teens-Alcohol-And-Other-Drugs-003.aspx

https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/CBHSQ-SR168-TypicalDay-2014/CBHSQ-SR168-TypicalDay-2014.htm

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