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SAMHSA News - March/April 2004, Volume 12, Number 2
 

Majority of Youth Say Marijuana Easy To Obtain

How easy is it for young people to get marijuana and other illicit drugs?

In 2002, more than half of youth age 12 to 17 felt that marijuana was easy to obtain. And almost 17 percent of all youth reported being approached by someone selling drugs in the past month. These statistics are included in a new report from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), formerly the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

From across the Nation, the survey gathered responses from more than 23,000 youth to a series of questions about their use and perceptions of availability of illicit drugs.

First, young people were asked to give a tally of their illicit drug use in the month prior to the interview. Illicit drugs included marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), inhalants, hallucinogens, heroin, and prescription drugs for non-medical use. Youth were then asked how easy or difficult it was to obtain drugs. In addition, they were asked about being approached in the past month by someone selling drugs. Responses were analyzed by gender, age, and residence by the type of county (metropolitan versus non-metropolitan) in which the respondents lived.

The survey estimated that 3 million youth (12 percent) age 12 to 17 used an illicit drug in the past month. Marijuana was the most frequently used drug; 8 percent reported using it within the last month. Four percent reported using prescription drugs non-medically in the past month; 1 percent used inhalants; and 1 percent used hallucinogens, including LSD. Cocaine (including crack) and heroin were used by less than 1 percent of the respondents.

Overall, 55 percent of youth age 12 to 17 said it would be easy to obtain marijuana. More than one in four young people felt it would be easy to obtain crack, compared to 25 percent for cocaine, 19 percent for LSD, and 16 percent for heroin. By gender, females were more likely than males to report that LSD, cocaine, crack, and heroin were easy to obtain. By age, 16- and 17-year-olds were more likely than younger children age 12 to 15 to report marijuana, LSD, cocaine, crack, and heroin as easy to obtain.

Data show that many young people don't have to go looking for illicit drugs; sellers bring the drugs to them. Males were more likely to be approached by a drug seller than females, and youth age 16 or 17 were more likely to be approached than youth age 15 or younger.

The report reveals some discrepancies between youth who live in metropolitan areas and those who live in non-metropolitan areas. Youth in metropolitan areas were more likely than youth in non-metropolitan areas to report that LSD or cocaine was easy to obtain. In large metropolitan areas, youth reported more frequently that heroin was easy to obtain than those living in small metropolitan or non-metropolitan areas. Youth living in metropolitan areas were more likely to be approached by someone selling drugs.

Clearly, young people who reported that illicit drugs were easy to obtain were more likely to report past-month use of marijuana, LSD, cocaine, or crack than were those who viewed illicit drugs as hard to obtain. Furthermore, youth who were approached by someone selling drugs during the past month were also more likely to report using drugs than were youth not approached by a drug seller.

An electronic copy of this NSDUH report, Availability of Illicit Drugs among Youths, is available from SAMHSA's Office of Applied Studies at www.oas.samhsa.gov. End of Article

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    SAMHSA News

    SAMHSA News - March/April 2004, Volume 12, Number 2



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