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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
September/October 2008, Volume 16, Number 5 

Youth Substance Use Declines

National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month launched its 19th year with SAMHSA presenting new data that show a drop in illicit drug use among youth.

SAMHSA’s 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) showed that prescription drug misuse is still a concern. Data also show an increase in drug use among 50- to 59-year-olds.

SAMHSA’s Acting Administrator Eric B. Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H., and the Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., presented this and other data at the National Press Club event held in early September.

“The numbers support the fact that treatment and prevention programs are making marks in certain segments of the population,” Dr. Clark said.


Although the current illicit drug use rate among youth age 12 to 17 remained stable from 2005 to 2007, the rate significantly declined since 2002 among this age group, from 11.6 percent in 2002 to 9.5 percent in 2007.

Youth drug use declined for nearly every type of drug, including marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, pain relievers, stimulants, and methamphetamine (see Drugs and Youth: Chart Shows 2002 to 2007 Data).

The level of alcohol use also dropped among 12- to 17-year-olds, from 17.6 percent in 2002 to 15.9 percent in 2007. “These new, recently declining rates in alcohol use among the youngest participants in the survey may be a leading indicator of an emerging pattern consistent with the goals of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking,” Dr. Broderick said.

Drugs and Youth: Chart Shows 2002 to 2007 Data

Significant Changes in Current Use of Selected Illicit Drugs among Youth, 2002 vs. 2007 - See Chart Description Below

Source: SAMHSA, 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (September 2008).

Rise in Prescription Drug Misuse

Despite many positive trends, the survey also reveals some less encouraging data. Among young adults age 18 to 25, the level of current nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers has risen 12 percent (from 4.1 in 2002 to 4.6 percent in 2007). Among adults age 26 and older, the rate also increased, from 1.3 to 1.6 percent.

Overall, 6.9 million people (2.8 percent) age 12 or older used prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically in the past month. Of these, 5.2 million used pain relievers, the same number as in 2006.

Among people age 12 or older who used pain relievers nonmedically in the past year, 56.5 percent reported that the source of the drug the most recent time they used was a friend or relative for free. Another 18.1 percent reported they got the drug from one doctor.

Baby Boomers Still Using

Among adults age 50 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use showed an increasing trend between 2002 and 2007. For those age 50 to 54, the rate increased from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 5.7 percent in 2007.

The level of current illicit drug use among people age 55 to 59 more than doubled from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 4.1 percent in 2007.

Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug (14.4 million past-month users). Among people age 12 or older, the rate of past-month marijuana use in 2007 (5.8 percent) was similar to the corresponding estimates for 2005 and 2006.

Current marijuana use among youth age 12 to 17 declined from 8.2 percent in 2002 to 6.7 percent in 2007. Most of the decline occurred between 2002 and 2005.

NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the Nation. It is a primary source of information on the levels of illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use as well as certain mental health conditions. Because of improvements to the survey in 2002, the 2002 data constitute a new baseline for tracking trends.

Complete NSDUH findings are available on the SAMHSA Web site.


Grant Awards Announced

SAMHSA recently announced grant awards for programs related to children's mental health, suicide, drug-free communities, and others.

Grant Awards Update

  National Survey on Drug Use  
  and Health  

Youth Substance Use Declines

From the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, new national data show a drop in illicit drug use among youth and an increase in adult prescription drug misuse.

image of part of a bar chart

Drugs and Youth: Chart Shows 2002 to 2007 Data

Marijuana, cocaine—changes in use of selected illicit drugs among youth, 2002 versus 2007.

logo for National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month

Recovery Month Testimonials

Two people relate their personal stories of addiction, recovery, and hope.

  Mental Health  
photo of a hand holding a pen to paper

Making Mental Health Services Accessible

Can primary care doctors help with mental health problems? New strategies to overcome barriers associated with reimbursement.

the letter i depicted as an icon representing a friend to lean on

Pros and Cons of Self-Disclosure

What are the risks and benefits of revealing a mental health problem to friends or coworkers?

photo of a boy pointing and a girl laughing

Bullying: Starting the Conversation

Bullies are out there—SAMHSA resources can help parents and educators address the problem.

  Substance Abuse  
photo of people sitting in a circle

Mutual Support Groups: Fact Sheet for Providers

What do you know about mutual support groups? Providers can help connect clients with groups that help people achieve recovery.

photo of a sign reading “Repeated Admissions Start Line Here”

First-Time Versus Repeat Admissions

New SAMHSA data reveal characteristics of first-time and repeat admissions to substance abuse treatment.

SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices

Registry Posts 100th Evidence-Based Practice

NREPP reaches a milestone—find out how the Registry can link communities to interventions specific to their needs.

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