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SAMHSA News - September/October 2007, Volume 15, Number 5


NSDUH Survey: Prescription Drugs Still a Concern

Youth Substance Abuse Declining

National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month launched its 18th year with SAMHSA presenting new data that show a drop in illicit drug use among teenagers. Prescription drug misuse, however, is still a concern.

SAMHSA Administrator Terry L. Cline, Ph.D., introduced the Agency’s new publication, Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings. “The data tell us that we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

photo of Dr. Terry L. Cline (right), SAMHSA Administrator, at podium and Dr. H. Westley Clark (left), Director of Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at National Press Club in Washington, DC
SAMHSA Administrator Dr. Terry L. Cline (at podium) presents new findings from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health at the National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month briefing held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Dr. H. Westley Clark, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, looks on.

According to the survey, illicit drug use among youth age 12 to 17 is at a 5-year low—9.8 percent in 2006 versus 11.6 percent in 2002. (See chart below.) Specifically, the survey shows that current illicit drug use rates remained stable from 2005 to 2006 among youth age 12 to 17, including no significant change in marijuana use. However, rates of current use by 12- to 17-year-olds declined significantly from 2002 to 2006 for any illicit drug.

For example, significant declines in marijuana use among youth age 12 to 17 were evident for past-year use (from 15.8 percent to 13.2 percent and lifetime use (from 20.6 to 17.3 percent). Most youth (59.8 percent) reported talking with a parent in the past year about the dangers of drug, tobacco, or alcohol use, with only 4.6 percent of youth who perceived strong parental disapproval actually using marijuana in the past month. And, notably, the level of current marijuana use among youth age 12 to 17 declined significantly from 8.2 percent in 2002 to 6.7 percent in 2006.

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Past-Month Use of Selected Illicit Drugs among Youths Age 12 to 17: 2002-2006

chart titled Past-Month Use of Selected Illicit Drugs among Youths Age 12 to 17: 2002-2006 - click to view text only versiond

click to enlarge image

+Difference between this estimate and the 2006 estimate is statistically significant at the .05 level.
Source: SAMHSA, Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings

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Nonmedical Use of Pain Relievers

Even though there have been some gains—particularly with regard to adolescent drug use—the survey also reveals the growing role of prescription drug misuse, especially among young adults.

Past-month nonmedical use of prescription-type drugs among young adults age 18 to 25 increased from 5.4 percent in 2002 to 6.4 percent in 2006. According to the survey, across age groups, an estimated 5.2 million persons were current nonmedical users of prescription pain relievers in 2006, which is more than the estimated 4.7 million in 2005.

And the report also reveals where most people age 12 and older obtain these drugs. Of those who used pain relievers nonmedically in the past year, 55.7 percent reported that they obtained the drugs from a friend or relative for free during the most recent time of use. This number follows similar data from the 2005 NSDUH report (see SAMHSA News, September/October 2006).

“The abuse of prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons is of increasing concern,” said Dr. Cline. “These are potent drugs that can have serious and life-threatening consequences if misused.”

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The Significance of Recovery

Highlighting SAMHSA’s focus on building resilience and facilitating recovery for people with or at risk for mental or substance use disorders, a consumer spoke about his personal experiences with addiction at the press event.

Jared Hess, who was introduced to prescription painkillers at age 15 after experiencing chronic health problems, started using prescription pain killers nonmedically when he received a new prescription at age 18. Now in recovery for 4½ years, and working for Faces & Voices of Recovery, Mr. Hess said his experience shows that recovery from prescription drug addiction is a reality for millions of Americans.

“This addiction robbed me of every opportunity that I had,” Mr. Hess said, noting that since he entered the recovery community, he’s been able to have the life of his dreams. “Young people really are a large and important part of the recovery community, and it really is up to us to speak out and show other young people the miracle of recovery.”

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Past-Month Illicit Drug Use among Persons Age 12 or
Older, by Age: 2002-2006

chart titled Past-Month Illicit Drug Use among Persons Age 12 or Older, by Age: 2002-2006 - click to view text only versiond

click to enlarge image

+Difference between this estimate and the 2006 estimate is statistically significant at the .05 level.
Source: SAMHSA, Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings

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Other Survey Results

This initial report on the 2006 NSDUH also indicates that the use of cigarettes decreased from 2002 to 2006 for people age 18 to 25. However, the level of underage drinking for people age 12 to 20 remained unchanged since 2002, with this level at 28.3 percent in 2006.

The report provides statistical breakdowns for various substances including marijuana, prescription drugs, cocaine, and heroin.

In general, the 2006 survey reveals that an estimated 22.6 million persons (9.2 percent of the population age 12 and older) may have had either substance abuse or dependency problems in the past year. Of these, 3.2 million were dependent on or abused both alcohol and illicit drugs, 3.8 million were dependent on or abused illicit drugs but not alcohol, and 15.6 million were dependent on or abused alcohol but not illicit drugs.

In addition, the survey reveals that 2.5 million people received substance abuse treatment at specialty facilities in 2006.

The survey also shows that the problems of substance abuse and mental illness are often intertwined. For example, 34.6 percent of people age 12 to 17 who had a major depressive episode in the past year had used illicit drugs, while the rate of illicit drug use who did not report a major depressive episode was 18.2 percent.

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More Information

Recovery Month recognizes the accomplishments of people in recovery, the contributions of treatment providers, and advances in substance abuse treatment. This year’s theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Saving Lives, Saving Dollars,” highlights the enormous benefits that recovery offers to individuals, loved ones, and society in general. (See Celebrating Recovery Month.)

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is an annual survey of approximately 67,500 people, including residents of households and noninstitutionalized group quarters and civilians living on military bases. Online, the complete survey results are available on SAMHSA’s Web site at http://oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUHLatest.htmEnd of Article

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Inside This Issue
Reducing Wait Time Improves Treatment Access, Retention
Part 1
Part 2
What Is NIATx?
What Is Process Improvement?
STAR-SI in Action: South Carolina
STAR-SI Participants
 ACTION Campaign
From the Administrator: Striving for Quality…
One Step at a Time


Grant Awards Announced

NSDUH: Prescription Drugs Still a Concern

Celebrating Recovery Month

Workplace Report: Employees & Drug Use

Workplace Helpline Active

Co-Occurring Disorders: Integrating Services

Science and Service Awards

CMHS Advisory Council: New Members Named

Presidential Award Bestowed

Prevention Journal Spotlights Homelessness, Mental Illness

TAP 29: Managing Treatment System Performance

Criminal Justice & Treatment: New Brochure


About SAMHSA

SAMHSA News - September/October 2007, Volume 15, Number 5