Prevalence Of Illegal Use of Prescription Drugs In The US

"The 2020 NSDUH assessed the use and misuse of psychotherapeutic drugs currently or recently available by prescription in the United States, including prescription stimulants, tranquilizers or sedatives (e.g., benzodiazepines), and pain relievers. In NSDUH, misuse of prescription drugs was defined as use in any way not directed by a doctor, including use without a prescription of one’s own; use in greater amounts, more often, or longer than told to take a drug; or use in any other way not directed by a doctor. Misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs was not included.

"Among people aged 12 or older in 2020, 5.8 percent (or 16.1 million people) misused prescription psychotherapeutic drugs in the past year (Table A.12B). The percentage was highest among young adults aged 18 to 25 (9.5 percent or 3.2 million people), followed by adults aged 26 or older (5.6 percent or 12.2 million people), then by adolescents aged 12 to 17 (2.8 percent or 688,000 people) (Tables A.13B to A.15B).

"Of the prescription drugs presented in this report, prescription pain relievers were the most commonly misused by people aged 12 or older. The 16.1 million people in 2020 who misused prescription psychotherapeutic drugs in the past year included 9.3 million people who misused prescription pain relievers, 6.2 million people who misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives (including 4.8 million past year misusers of benzodiazepines), and 5.1 million people who misused prescription stimulants (Figure 9)."

Source: 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP21-07-01-003, NSDUH Series H-56). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.