SAMHSA-sponsored Survey Shows a Decline in Prescription Drug Abuse and Heavy Drinking


Federal and state crackdowns on prescription drug abusers are working and proof to that is highlighted in a survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

drug abuse preventionSAMHSA announced, during the 23rd annual national observance of National Recovery Month, that the number of 18 to 25 year olds who used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the past month had dropped to 14 percent — from 2.0 million in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2011.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said, “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.”

The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a survey conducted annually by SAMHSA, also marked significant decline in the rates of binge and heavy drinking among underage people. Past month alcohol use among 12 to 20 year olds decreased from 28.8 percent in 2002 to 25.1 percent in 2011, while binge drinking, defined as consuming 5 or more drinks on a single occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days, declined from 19.3 percent in 2002 to 15.8 percent in 2011. Heavy drinking declined from 6.2 percent in 2002 to 4.4 percent in 2011.

Other positive improvements manifested by the survey, participated by approximately 70,000 people throughout the country, include reductions of 44 and 40 percent, respectively, in the number of past month users of cocaine and methamphetamine since 2006, and a 19 percent reduction in the number of past month users of hallucinogens between 2010 and 2011. Additionally, underage tobacco rate of past month use among 12 to 17 year olds continued to decline from 15.2 percent in 2002, to 10.7 percent in 2010 and 10.0 percent in 2011.

Meanwhile, marijuana is still the most widely abused illicit drug. According to the survey, ¬†about 7 percent of Americans are current users of marijuana in 2011 — an increase from 5.8 percent in 2007. But despite the surge in marijuana use, officials are confident that the country can continue to abate the problem with the help of families, communities, and law enforcements.

“Drug use in this country creates too many obstacles to opportunity — especially for young people,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. “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.”

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