On January 4, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released its 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2021 NSDUH). Briefly, the survey reveals how people in the United States reported on their mental health conditions, substance use, and related treatment in 2021. The 2021 NSDUH report includes data on race, ethnicity, and age. According to the report, 9.2 million people aged 12 and older misused opioids in the past year. Meanwhile, 7 in 10 adults suffering from addiction said they were recovering or in recovery. Earlier in 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released guidance on the discrimination of people undergoing treatment for drug addiction amid an ongoing opioid crisis.

About the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2021 NSDUH)

Conducted annually since 1971, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provides mental health statistics and data on substance abuse in the United States. The report focuses on the non-institutionalized population aged 12 and older. The 2021 NSDUH also includes selected estimates by race, ethnicity, and age. Specifically, the report covers the following:

  • Drug use, including illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco;
  • Substance use disorder and treatment;
  • Major depressive episodes, any mental illness, and mental health service use;
  • Perceived recovery from substance use or mental health issues; and
  • Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on substance use, mental health, and treatment.

The SAMHSA states that due to methodological changes in the 2021 NSDUH, estimates from 2021 should not be compared to data from previous years.

Key Findings from the 2021 NSDUH

In sum, the 2021 NSDUH survey collected mental health and drug use statistics from 69,850 respondents. The survey covered residents of households and people in noninstitutional group settings like shelters, college dormitories, and halfway houses. As such, the survey excludes people in jails, mental health institutions, and those with no fixed address. Key findings from the 2021 NSDHUH include:

  • About 2 in 5 young adults aged 18 to 25 used illicit drugs in the past year, while 1 in 4 young adults used marijuana in the past year.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 adults aged 18 and older, and 1 in 3 among adults aged 18 to 25, had a mental illness in the past year.
  • Despite having the highest rate of serious mental illness, young adults aged 18 to 25 had the lowest rate of treatment in comparison to adults in older age groups.
  • Black, Hispanic or Latino, and Asian adults were less likely to receive mental health services than white and multiracial adults.

Employer Takeaways

As the 2021 NSDUH report indicates, 25% of adults had a mental illness in the past year. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that 1 in 4 Americans have a condition or impairment classified as a disability. When a serious mental illness or recovery from substance use disorder qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are obligated to grant a request for reasonable accommodation unless it would cause an undue hardship for the business. Employers of all sizes are more likely than ever before to receive an employee request for an accommodation of their disability. Briefly, a reasonable accommodation is a modification to a process, job role, or work environment that helps a qualified individual with a disability perform the essential functions of a job or benefit from employment opportunities.