Substance use in the United States has been linked to a number of health and social consequences. For example, approximately 40 million occurrences of debilitating illnesses or injuries are associated with the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs each year (National Institute on Drug Abuse 2007). Behavioral and social problems associated with problematic substance use include crime, violence, sexual risk-taking, and suicidality (National Institute on Drug Abuse 2007; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2007).
Empirical evidence regarding the prevalence of substance use among people with disabilities has been mixed, with some findings suggesting that substance use is similar or lower among individuals with disabilities than among the general population (Katims, Zapata, and Yin 1996; McCrystal, Percy, and Higgins 2007; McGillicuddy 2006; Moore and Siegal 1989; Rurangirwa et al. 2006), while other studies indicate a higher prevalence of alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drug use among individuals with disabilities (Blum, Kelly, and Ireland 2001; Gilson, Chilcoat, and Stapleton 1996; Hogan, McLellan, and Bauman 2000; Milberger et al. 1997). Such mixed findings may be due to the limited number of disabilities considered in these studies, the fact that most studies considered only one or a few substances, and the use of small cohort studies, all of which limited the generalizability of the findings (Barrett and Paschos 2006).
This fact sheet, based on data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2)1, addresses the limitations of some of these previous studies by providing a national picture of the prevalence rates of smoking, alcohol, and illegal drug use in young adults, ages 18 through 212, with disabilities. This fact sheet also considers demographic characteristics of young adults with disabilities and the associations between such characteristics and tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drug use. Further, analyses of other nationally representative datasets provide comparisons of substance use between young adults with disabilities and those in the general U.S. population.3