What’s the Percentage of Americans Using Illicit Drugs?

Often, when people think about the unemployed and people receiving government assistance programs, they make the mistake of assuming people on these programs are predominately drug abusers. It’s a meme heard ad nauseam today, and serves as the basis for the objection of many to the government assistance programs they perceive as enabling illicit behavior in the first place.

Never let the facts get in the way of a good argument… or so the saying goes. Just how many people use illicit drugs in the United States? How many people who are unemployed use drugs?

About 23 million or 9.2 percent of the population use illicit drugs.

That data from 2012 comes from the result of surveys conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They employ various methods to ensure the accuracy of the data, including anonymity.

About 2.5 million unemployed people (just 18 percent of all unemployed) indicated they use illicit drugs, which include prescription and street drugs for non-medical purposes. 10.5 million people employed with a full-time job (or 9 percent) indicated they use illicit drugs. While one is twice as likely to use illicit drugs while unemployed, the fact remains that more than 4 in 5 people without employment do not abuse drugs.

Furthermore, a great deal of people on some form of government assistance are indeed employed, particularly SNAP and Medicaid beneficiaries.

Another astonishing fact from the study indicates that people with a full-time job are actually more likely to drink alcohol than those without employment.