Youth Drug Use Continues To Decline
SAMHSA recently released new findings that show a 9-percent
decline in illicit drug use among American youth between
age 12 and 17 from 2002 to 2004. Marijuana use also declined
by 7 percent among young adults between age 18 and 25
during this same period.
The findings are from SAMHSA's 2004
National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) released
at the annual
National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month
press conference on September 8.
SAMHSA Administrator Charles
G. Curie presented the findings from SAMHSA's 2004
National Survey on Drug Use and Health and launched
the Agency's 16th annual Recovery Month.
SAMHSA's Director of the Center for Substance Abuse
Treatment, H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H.,
left, looks on with presenters Carrick Forbes and
Diedre Drohan Forbes (seated). Photo by A.
Marijuana, according to the survey, continues to be
the most commonly used illicit drug, with a rate of 6.1
percent (14.6 million current users) for the U.S. population
age 12 and older.
Overall, findings show that 19.1 million Americans,
or 7.9 percent of the population age 12 and older, were
current illicit drug users—meaning that they used
an illicit drug in the past month. This rate was similar
to the rates seen in 2002 and 2003, or approximately
8 percent of the population age 12 and older.
Particularly striking was a decline in current use—defined
as use in the past month—of marijuana among boys
age 12 to 17, from 9.1 percent in 2002 down to 8.1 percent
in 2004. But marijuana use by girls in that age group
did not decline and remained at about 7 percent.
Similarly, for 18- to 25-year-olds, the cohort with
the highest illicit drug use rates, there were declines
in current marijuana use from 17.3 percent in 2002 to
16.1 percent in 2004, and use of hallucinogens from 1.9
percent in 2002 to 1.5 percent in 2004.
"Our partnerships and the work of prevention professionals,
schools, parents, teachers, law enforcement, religious
leaders, and local community anti-drug coalitions are
paying off," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G.
Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.
An area of concern is the increasing non-medical use
of prescription medications among young adults. The 2004
survey shows about 6 percent of young adults used medications
non-medically in the past month, and 29 percent had used
them in their lifetime.
From 2002 to 2004, there was an increase in lifetime
prevalence of non-medical use of narcotic pain relievers
in the 18- to 25-year-old age group, from 22 percent
to 24 percent. Hydrocodone and oxycodone products showed
increases in lifetime use among young adults age 18 to
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More Survey Findings
Marijuana. Among persons age 12 or
older who used illicit drugs, 56.8 percent used only
marijuana, 19.7 percent used marijuana and some other
drug, and 23.6 percent used only a drug other than marijuana.
An estimated 8.2 million persons (3.4 percent of the
population age 12 and older) were current users of illicit
drugs other than marijuana in 2004.
Prescription Drugs. In 2004, most of
the people using drugs other than marijuana used psychotherapeutic
drugs non-medically (6.0 million, or 2.5 percent of the
There were an estimated 4.4 million current users of
narcotic pain relievers, 1.6 million users of tranquilizers,
1.2 million used stimulants, and 0.3 million used sedatives.
These estimates are all similar to the estimates for
The drug category with the largest number of recent
initiates in 2004 was non-medical use of pain relievers
(2.4 million new users), followed by marijuana (2.1 million
new users), non-medical use of tranquilizers (1.2 million
new users), and cocaine (1.0 million new users).
Methamphetamine. Use of methamphetamine
remained unchanged from 2002 to 2004 at approximately
5-percent lifetime use and 0.6-percent past-year use,
and 0.2 percent for current use. In 2004, 583,000 persons
were current users of methamphetamine and 1.4 million
persons age 12 and older used methamphetamine in the
past year. The rates of use declined among young people
age 12 to 17.
Cocaine. In 2004, there were an estimated
2.0 million current cocaine users, 0.8 percent of the
population age 12 and older. Of these, 467,000 used crack
in the past month (0.2 percent). These estimates are
similar to those in 2002 and 2003. Among 12- to 17-year-olds,
past-year use of cocaine fell 8 percent between 2002
Heroin. Heroin was used by 0.1 percent
of the population age 12 and older in the past month
in 2004. There were 166,000 current heroin users. This
is similar to 2002 and 2003. Lifetime heroin use fell
16 percent (from 3.7 million individuals to 3.1 million)
between 2003 and 2004.
Alcohol. More than one-fifth (22.8
percent) of persons age 12 or older (55 million people)
participated in binge drinking at least once in the 30
days prior to being surveyed in 2004. Binge drinking
is defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion
at least once in the past 30 days. These figures are
similar to estimates in 2002 and 2003.
In 2004, about 10.8 million underage persons age 12
to 20 (28.7 percent) reported drinking alcohol in the
past month. Nearly 7.4 million were binge drinkers (19.6
percent), and 2.4 million were heavy drinkers (6.3 million).
These figures were similar to the 2002 and 2003 estimates.
Among young adults age 18 to 25, 41.2 percent engaged
in binge drinking and 15.1 percent in heavy alcohol use.
The rate of binge and heavy drinking in 2004 peaked at
SAMHSA is preparing to launch a major campaign against
underage drinking this fall.
Prevention Measures. In 2004, 60.3
percent of youth age 12 to 17 reported that they had
talked at least once in the past year with at least one
of their parents about the dangers of drug, tobacco,
or alcohol use. This rate represents an increase from
the 2003 rate of 58.9 percent and the 2002 rate of 58.1
percent. Among youth who reported having had such conversations
with their parents, rates of current alcohol and cigarette
use and past year and lifetime use of alcohol, cigarettes,
and illicit drugs were lower than among youth who did
not report such conversations.
Need for Treatment. In 2004, the estimated
number of persons age 12 or older needing treatment for
an alcohol or illicit drug use problem was 23.5 million
(9.8 percent of the total population). The estimated
number of persons needing but not receiving treatment
for a substance use problem was slightly higher in 2004
(21.1 million) than in 2003 (20.3 million), but this
difference was not statistically significant.
Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Illness.
In 2004, adults who used illicit drugs in the past year
were more than twice as likely to have serious psychological
distress than those who did not use an illicit drug (20.6
percent vs. 8.3 percent). This pattern has remained stable
since 2002 and was reflected in most demographic subgroups.
Among adults with serious psychological distress, 27.6
percent used an illicit drug in the past year compared
with 11.8 percent among those without serious psychological
In 2004, almost half (47.5) percent of adults with both
serious psychological distress and a substance use disorder
received no treatment for either problem.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is an annual
survey of close to 70,000 people. The survey collects
information from residents of households, residents of
non-institutionalized group quarters, and civilians living
on military bases.
Past-Month Use of Selected Illicit Drugs Among Youth Age 12 to 17: 2002-2004
Source: SAMHSA Office of Applied
Studies. Overview of Findings From the 2004 National
Survey on Drug Use and Health, page 12.
For a copy of the survey or the overview, contact SAMHSA's
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
at P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20847-2345. Telephone:
1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889
(TDD). The survey is also available online on the SAMHSA
Web site at www.oas.samhsa.gov/nsduh.htm#NSDUHinfo.
Electronic versions of Recovery Month materials
are available at www.recoverymonth.gov.
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Recovery Month is observed annually in
September to recognize the accomplishments of people
in recovery, the contributions of treatment providers,
and advances in substance abuse treatment. This
year is the 16th annual observance. The theme,
"Join the Voices for Recovery—Healing
Lives, Families and Communities," emphasizes
that addiction to alcohol and drugs is a chronic,
but treatable, public health problem that affects
everyone in the community.
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