May 7, 2007 -- Ten percent of U.S. adults have abused drugs or become physically dependent on drugs, a new study shows.
The study, published in May's edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry, focuses on drugs other than nicotine or alcohol.
"Drug use disorders continue to be a widespread and substantial public health problem in the United States," write the researchers, who included Wilson Compton, MD, MPE, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The data came from nearly 44,000 civilian U.S. adults who were interviewed in person between 2001 and 2002.
The results show that 7.7% of participants had ever abused drugs and 2.6% had ever been physically dependent on drugs.
Drug use disorders were particularly common among men, people 18-44 years old, people with low incomes, and Native Americans. Mental disorders and emotional instability often accompanied drug use disorders.
On average, people were nearly 20 years old when they began abusing drugs and nearly two years older when they became physically dependent on drugs.
Most never got treatment. Only 8% of drug abusers and 38% of people physically dependent on drugs ever received treatment for their drug problem, the study shows.
"Drug abuse and dependence are prevalent, highly disabling disorders than often go untreated," the researchers conclude.