Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in North America

Trends in Drug Abuse in North America

Cannabis abuse among adults 18 years and over declined markedly in Canada from 1980-1985. From 1985-1989, abuse is reported to have stabilized (HWC 1992a). Surveys conducted by a number of agencies and centres in recent years have revealed a downward trend in cannabis abuse. However, despite an overall decrease in consumption levels, cannabis remains the most commonly abused illicit drug in Canada (NDIE 1991).

          The upward trend in cocaine abuse and availability noted in previous years continued through 1990/1991 in Canada (NDIE 1991, HWC 1992a).


No increase was reported in drug abuse in 1992. Abuse of most drugs remained stable, and there was a decrease reported in the abuse of cocaine, stimulants and inhalents (U.N. 1992).

            The number of illicit drug abusers in the United States has been declining since its peak in 1979. This trend is reported to be continuing with the number of drug abusers dropping from 12.8 million in 1991, to 11.4 million in 1992. A decrease in prevalence has occurred among younger people, but not among older adults. The gradual but fundamental shift in students' perceptions is attributed to the impact of education and information on young people (U.N. 1992).

            The proportion of high school seniors using any illicit drug during the prior year fell from 33 per cent in 1990, to 29 per cent in 1991; and was down considerably from the peak level of 54 per cent in 1979. Similarly, among college students, annual prevalence of any illicit drug abuse fell from 33 per cent in 1990 to 29 per cent in 1991; down from a peak of 56 per cent in 1980 (University of Michigan 1992).

            Although cocaine and other drug use continues to decline among high-school seniors, 8th graders in 1992 reported higher rates of illicit drug abuse than in 1991 (U.N. 1992).