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Prescription Drug Abuse Drops Among U.S. Young Adults

MONDAY Sept. 24, 2012 -- Prescription drug abuse among young adults ages 18 to 25 in the United States fell 14 percent between 2010 and 2011, according to a federal report released Monday.

During that time, the number of young adults who reported using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the last month decreased from 2 million to 1.7 million. However, prescription drug abuse among children ages 12 to 17 and among adults 26 and older remained unchanged.

The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health also found that rates of drinking, binge drinking and heavy drinking in the past month among underage people continued to decline from 2002, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said.

Among young people ages 12 to 20, past month alcohol use fell from nearly 29 percent in 2002 to about 25 percent in 2011. Binge drinking -- consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion on at least one day in the past month -- declined from more than 19 percent to about 16 percent, and heavy drinking decreased from about 6 percent to 4.4 percent.

The use of illicit drugs remained stable. Illicit drug use within the past month was reported by 8.7 percent of Americans aged 12 and older in 2010, compared to 8.9 percent last year, according to the report released during National Recovery Month.

Marijuana remained the most commonly used illegal drug. It was used by 7 percent of Americans in 2011, compared with nearly 6 percent in 2007. The rate of marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds was about the same in 2011 (7.9 percent) as in 2009 (7.4 percent).

Among the other findings:

  • The number of people who reported heroin use in the past year rose from 373,000 in 2007 to 620,000 in 2011.
  • Between 2006 and 2011, there were reductions in reported past month use of cocaine (44 percent) and of methamphetamine (40 percent). There was a 19 percent decrease in past-month use of hallucinogens between 2010 and 2011.
  • Past month use of tobacco by 12- to 17-year-olds continued to decline from more than 15 percent in 2002, to 10.7 percent in 2010 and 10 percent in 2011.

"These findings show that national efforts to address the problem of prescription drug misuse may be beginning to bear fruit and we must continue to apply this pressure to drive down this and other forms of substance use," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release.

"Behind each of these statistics are individuals, families and communities suffering from the consequences of abuse and addiction. We must continue to promote robust prevention, treatment and recovery programs throughout our country," she added.

Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, said in the news release: "Drug use in this country creates too many obstacles to opportunity -- especially for young people. The good news is that we are not powerless against this problem. By emphasizing prevention and treatment, as well as smart law enforcement efforts that break the cycle of drug use, crime and incarceration, we know we can reduce drug use and its consequences in America."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse explains how to identify and prevent prescription drug abuse.

Posted: September 2012


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