Health United States 2020-2021

Substance use

Refers to the use of selected substances, including alcohol, tobacco products, drugs, inhalants, and other substances that can be consumed, inhaled, injected, or otherwise absorbed into the body with possible dependence and other detrimental effects. (Also see Sources and Definitions, Alcohol consumption; Illicit drug use; Tobacco use.)


Monitoring the Future (MTF) Study

Collects information on the use of selected substances by using self-completed questionnaires in a school-based survey of secondary school students. MTF has tracked 12th graders’ illicit drug use and attitudes toward drugs since 1975. In 1991, 8th and 10th graders were added to the study. The survey includes questions on abuse of substances including (but not limited to) marijuana, inhalants, other illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products. (Also see Sources and Definitions, Monitoring the Future [MTF] Study.)


National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

Information about substance use is obtained from in-person, computer-assisted interviews of a sample of children aged 12 years and over at their place of residence. For illicit drug use, alcohol use, and tobacco use, information is collected about use in the lifetime, past year, and past month. However, only estimates of use in the past month are presented in Health, United States. For illicit drug use, respondents in NSDUH are asked about use of marijuana or hashish, cocaine (including crack), inhalants, hallucinogens, heroin, and misuse of prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives). A series of questions is asked about each substance: “Have you ever, even once, used [substance]?” and “How long has it been since you last used [substance]?” Numerous probes and checks are included in the computer-assisted interview system. Starting in 2013, information about marijuana use that was recommended by a doctor or other health care professional has been collected; however, any reported marijuana use is classified as illicit drug use. Starting in 2015, changes in measurement for 7 of the 10 illicit drug categories—hallucinogens, inhalants, methamphetamine, and the misuse of prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives—may affect their comparability with the estimates of these illicit drugs and any illicit drug use produced before 2015. Additionally, prescription psychotherapeutic subtypes were revised in 2016; as a result, data on codeine products before 2016 cannot be compared with those from 2016 onward. (Also see Sources and Definitions, National Survey on Drug Use and Health [NSDUH].)