The rate of past month nonmedical use of prescription drugs among young adults aged 18 to 25 in 2012 was 5.3 percent – similar to rates in 2010 and 2011, but significantly lower than the rate from 2009 (6.4 percent), according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). SAMHSA issued its 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report in conjunction with the 24th annual national observance of National Recovery Month.
The SAMHSA report also found that the rates of past month drinking, binge drinking and heavy drinking among underage adolescents aged 12 to 17 remained lower than their levels in 2002 and 2009. The percentage of people aged 12 and older who drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year in 2012 was 11.2 percent, significantly lower than the level in 2002 (14.2 percent) but similar to the rate in 2011 (11.1 percent).
Overall, the use of illicit drugs among Americans aged 12 and older remained stable since the last survey in 2011. The NSDUH report shows that 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit drug users – (9.2 percent of the population 12 and older).
Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug. In 2012, 7.3 percent of Americans were current users of marijuana – up from 5.8 percent in 2007. Although past month use of marijuana rose in nearly every age group between 2007 and 2012, it did drop among those aged 12 to 17 from 7.9 percent in 2011 to 7.2 percent in 2012.
In addition to marijuana, the use of heroin also rose significantly. The number of people aged 12 and older who used heroin in the past year rose from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 in 2012.
“These findings show that while we have made progress in preventing some aspects of substance abuse we must redouble our efforts to reduce and eliminate all forms of it throughout our nation,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “These statistics represent real people, families and communities dealing with the devastating consequences of abuse and addiction. We must strive to prevent further abuse and provide the hope of treatment and recovery to all people needing help.”
“Reducing the impact of drug use and its consequences on our Nation requires a robust public health response coupled with smart on crime strategies that protect public safety,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “For the first time in a decade, we are seeing real and significant reductions in the abuse of prescription drugs in America, proving that a more comprehensive response to our drug problem can make a real difference in making our nation healthier and safer. Expanding prevention, treatment, and support for people in recovery for substance use disorders will be our guide as we work to address other emerging challenges, including the recent uptick in heroin use shown in this survey.”
The report showed some other areas of continued improvement including a drop in the rate of past month use of tobacco products among 12 to 17 year olds – from 15.2 percent in 2002, to 8.6 percent in 2012. Similarly between 2002 and 2012, the percentage of youth aged 12 to 17 with substance dependence or abuse declined from 8.9 percent to 6.1 percent.
The 2012 report also showed that many Americans needing treatment for a substance use disorder are still not receiving specialty treatment. According to the report 23.1 million Americans aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in 2012 and only 2.5 million (or 10.8 percent of those in need) received it in a specialized treatment setting.
NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 70,000 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. Because of its statistical power, it is a primary source of statistical information on the scope and nature of many substance abuse and mental health issues affecting the Nation.
The complete survey findings are available on the SAMHSA web site at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/Index.aspx For more information about SAMHSA visit: http://www.samhsa.gov/.