Non-Biased Charts on Use of Alcohol & Drugs

The Brian C. Bennett Drug Charts – from bakerinstitute.org

Catalogued below is an extensive and easy-to-use collection of charts that present findings from decades of massive government survey data.

This collection provides a more accurate and illuminating picture of drug use than is typically presented in popular media or reflected in our drug policies.

Originally created by nonresident contributing expert Brian C. Bennett and updated by the Baker Institute’s Drug Policy Program, these charts trace the pattern of the use and abuse of individual drugs over (in most cases) more than 40 years.  

The most common of the charts show the percentage of people — either 12 and older or broken into smaller age groupings — who have ever used a given drug at some time in their lives, in the past year, and in the last month.

High proportions of people who have ever used any of the drugs against which federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have waged war for more than 40 years stopped using them within the first year and no longer use them regularly, if at all.


Introduction by Brian C. Bennett

My intent has been to provide an encyclopedic presentation and analysis of the drug war that is easy for the average person to understand.

Much that we are told about drugs and drug users is

  1. based on fear,
  2. grossly distorted and
  3. typically presented without any truly useful context

The situation is far worse than you may realize. Don’t simply believe what you read and hear.

Look at the data yourself and tell other people about what you learn

FAQs about the Survey Data

The best known of the Bennett charts draw on NSDUH and MTF data to trace and depict the use of various illegal drugs over decades by three variables:

1) ever used in one’s lifetime,

2) used in the past year anddrug-abuse-numbers-2002-2014

3) used in the past month.

Looking at these charts clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of people who have ever used any illicit drug no longer do so regularly. An even smaller percentage have used the drug recently, indicating still lower levels of use that could reasonably signify dependence or addiction.

The Big Picture: Stable Rates, Alcohol and Age

Before looking at examples of the Bennett charts on individual drugs, it may be helpful to provide a graphic overview of drug use in America as reflected in the NSDUH.

These data point clearly to three major aspects of substance abuse in the United States:

1) the stability of rates and patterns of drug use and drug problems over time,

2) the overwhelming role of alcohol and

3) the crucial importance of age.

Figure 1, drawn from NSDUH findings for 2002–2014, depicts the number of U.S. residents ages 12 or older estimated to have a diagnosable Substance Use Disorder (SUD),[1] an umbrella term for repeated patterns of harmful drug use, differentiating it from non-problematic use and indicating abuse and/or dependence, in the past 12 months.

The substances monitored include alcohol, illicit drugs and nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

drug-abuse-numbers-2002-2014

To understand how these data can inform smarter and more effective U.S. drug policy, please read our recent Issue Brief, which can be accessed here.

Usage Rates by Drug

Alcohol  /  Amphetamines  /  Cocaine  /  Crack Cocaine  /  Hallucinogens  /  Heroin  /   Inhalants  /  LSD  /   Marijuana  /   MDMA (Ecstasy)  /   Methamphetamines  /   Nonmedical Prescription Pills  /   Nonmedical Prescription Pain Relievers  /   Oxycontin  /   PCP  /   Sedatives  /   Stimulants  /   Tranquilizers  

A PDF version of the Brian C. Bennett Drug Charts and the introductory materials found above can be accessed here. To gain access to the raw data, contact William Martin at wcm@rice.edu.

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