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Fall 2013, Volume 21, Number 4

2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report Released at the September 6, 2013 Recovery Month Press Conference with SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Director Dr. Westley Clark, and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Gil Kerlikowske

The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report Released at the September 6, 2013, Recovery Month Press Conference with (from left to right) SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Gil Kerlikowske, and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Director Dr. Westley Clark.

Survey Shows Continued Reduction of Prescription Drug Use among Young Adults

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 SAMHSA's 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report. The report was released at a press conference on September 4 in conjunction with the 24th annual 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 through 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).

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. The decline was seen among adolescent males (from 9.0 to 7.5 percent), while the rate among females in 2012 (7.0 percent) was similar the rate in 2011 (6.7 percent).

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.

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 an annual survey of approximately 70,000 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. 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 website.

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