Most Likely to Use Marijuana or Cocaine: Americans

Rates of drug use in United States exceed those in other countries, new study finds.


The United States has the highest levels of cocaine and marijuana use of 17 countries surveyed, according to a global study published Monday in the journal PLoS Medicine. The researchers found that 16 percent of Americans have used cocaine in their lifetime and 42 percent have used marijuana.

The discrepancy between the United States and other countries surveyed was especially large for cocaine. Only 4 percent of people in New Zealand, Colombia, Spain, and Mexico—the countries with the next highest rates—reported using cocaine, while the other countries all reported rates of less than 2 percent.

For marijuana, only New Zealanders reported using the drug at levels comparable to Americans'. Other countries in the survey had rates of less than 20 percent. Fewer than 2 percent of Japanese and Chinese reported using marijuana.

"Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly and is not simply related to drug policy, since countries with stringent user-level illegal drug policies did not have lower levels of use than countries with liberal ones," the authors note in the study.

Because drug use is so common in the United States, U.S. News recently explored what parents need to know about marijuana, offered advice on how to shield kids from substance abuse, and published a primer on the types of questions teens have about peer pressure and drugs.