A new U.S. government survey has found that the abuse of illegal and prescription drugs is currently on the rise. About 22.6 million people over the age of 12 used illegal drugs in 2010, representing a staggering 9% of the nation’s population. This is up from 8% in 2008.
The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health included 67,500 American aged 12 and above and covered the use of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens and some types of commonly abused prescription drugs.
These findings were released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
• Marijuana tops the list of frequently used illicit drugs with a reported 17 million users. This is an increase of 3 million users since 2007.
• The nonmedical use of prescription drugs (including painkillers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives) was reported by 7 million people.
• Cocaine use was reported by 1.5 million people. This is a decrease of about 1 million users since 2006.
• Use of hallucinogens was reported by 1.2 million people.
• Methamphetamine use saw a significant drop in usage, down to about 353,000 users compared to 731,000 in 2006.
Increased Drug Use by Young Adults
One of the biggest causes for concern is the continuing increase in the number of young adults who use illegal drugs. In 2008, 19.6% of those between the ages of 18 and 25 said they used illegal drugs. In 2010, the number rose to 21.5%. The increase is largely due to increased use of marijuana.
Among 12 to 17-year olds, the rate of drug use is about 10%. This number has remained unchanged for the past few years. The study found that the average age of first-time marijuana users is 18.
According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of national drug control policy, emerging research has suggested a link between states that allow the medical use of marijuana and an increase in illegal use of the drugs. He urged families to protect young people from serious harm by teaching them about the health and safety consequences of drug abuse.
Widespread Use of Alcohol
The survey found that about 50% of American over the age of 12 (about 131 million people) drink alcohol. This number is nearly the same as in previous years. These are some of the causes of concern related to alcohol consumption:
• Nearly 25% of the population admits to binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks) at least once in the previous month, with 7% reporting 5 or more binge drinking incidents.
• About 10 million young people ages 12 to 20 drink alcohol on a regular basis, with about 65% saying they binge drink.
• More than 11% of Americans confess to driving under the influence in the previous year. Drunk driving was most prevalent among those aged 21 to 25.
The Need for Treatment
They survey found that more than 23 million Americans over the age of 12 are in need of treatment for drug or alcohol problems abuse. Of this number, only 2.6 million sought treatment in 2010. The survey also found that the chief reason that more people don’t seek treatment is that they mistakenly think they don’t need it.