The Truth About Drugs


Drugs have been part of our culture since the middle of the last century. Popularized in the 1960s by music and mass media, they invade all aspects of society.

An estimated 208 million people internationally consume illegal drugs. In the United States, results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 19.9 million Americans (or 8% of the population aged 12 or older) used illegal drugs in the month prior to the survey.

You probably know someone who has been affected by drugs, directly or indirectly.

The most commonly used—and abused—drug in the US is alcohol. Alcohol-related motor accidents are the second leading cause of teen death in the United States.

The most commonly used illegal drug is marijuana. According to the United Nations 2008 World Drug Report, about 3.9% of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 64 abuse marijuana.

Young people today are exposed earlier than ever to drugs. Based on a survey by the Centers for Disease Control in 2007, 45% of high school students nationwide drank alcohol and 19.7% smoked pot during a one-month period.

In Europe, recent studies among 15- and 16-year-olds suggest that use of marijuana varies from under 10% to over 40%, with the highest rates reported by teens in the Czech Republic (44%), followed by Ireland (39%), the UK (38%) and France (38%). In Spain and the United Kingdom, cocaine use among 15- to 16-year-olds is 4% to 6%. Cocaine use among young people has risen in Denmark, Italy, Spain, UK, Norway and France.

“My goal in life wasn’t living . . . it was getting high. Over the years, I turned to cocaine, marijuana and alcohol under a false belief it would allow me to escape my problems. It just made things worse. I kept saying to myself, I’m going to stop permanently after using one last time. It never happened.” —John

“It started with the weed, then the pills (Ecstasy) and acid, making cocktails of all sorts of drugs, even overdosing to make the rushes last longer. I had a bad trip one night . . . I prayed and cried for this feeling to go away, I had voices in my head, had the shakes and couldn’t leave home for six months. I thought everyone was watching me. I couldn’t walk in public places. Man! I couldn’t even drive.

“I ended up homeless and on the streets, living and sleeping in a cardboard box, begging and struggling to find ways to get my next meal.” —Ben


  1. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2007 Annual Report
  2. “Drug Facts, Did You Know?” Drugs and the Environment, October 2004
  3. Results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Fact Sheet.
  5. Office of National Drug Control Policy
  6. “New Initiative Harnesses Power of Teens, Parents to Stop Teen Drug Use,” Media Campaign, News Room, 29 January 2004
  7. Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, 3 October 2004
  8. “Help for Parents: Is Your Child Using Drugs? How to Find Out,” Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 12 October 2004
  9. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  10. UN Office of Drugs and Crime World Drug Report 2008
  11. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction Statistical Bulletin 2008
  12. “Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) Highlights—2006”
  13. “CDC Survey: As Many Teens Smoke Marijuana as Cigarettes, Cigarette Use Dropping Faster,” 5 June 2008