Decline in the Misuse of Prescription Drugs in the USA

The US Department of Health & Human Services Substance – Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration reports a significant decline in the misuse of prescription drugs. The misuse of prescription drugs decreased significantly between 2007 and 2008 among those aged 12 and older, including among adolescents, according to 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). However, the national survey showed that the overall level of current illicit drug use has remained level at about 8%.

The annual NSDUH report also indicated that progress has been made in curbing other types of the illicit drug use. For example, past month methamphetamine use among those aged 12 and older dropped sharply from approximately 529,000 people in 2007 to 314,000 in 2008. Similarly, the level of current cocaine use among the population aged 12 and older has decreased from 1.0% in 2006 to 0.7% in 2008.

Promising results from the latest survey also were also found for the most part among youth (12 to 17 year olds). Among youth there was a significant decline in overall past month illicit drug use, from 11.6% in 2002 to 9.3% in 2008. The rate of current marijuana use among youth has remained level at about 6.7% over the past few years while there have been significant decreases in the current use of alcohol, cigarettes and non-medical use of prescription drugs since 2007.

Historically, young adults have had the highest rates of substance abuse, and for most types of illicit substance abuse the levels have remained steady over the past year. However, over the past three years there has been a steady drop in the rate of heavy alcohol use by full time college students aged 18 to 22 – from a high of 19.5% in 2005 to 16.3% in 2008.

“The survey findings are important because they often point to emerging patterns of substance abuse,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “Although we see some success reversing trends in prescription drug abuse, there are indications that progress in other areas may be at a standstill, or even slipping back, particularly among youth.”

The NSDUH continues to show a vast disparity between the number of number of people needing specialized treatment for a substance abuse problem and the number who actually receive it. According to the survey 23.1 million Americans need specialized treatment for a substance abuse problem, but only 2.3 million (or roughly 10 percent of them) get it.

The complete survey findings are available on the SAMHSA web site.

Related: Prescription Drug Abuse: Pain Killers Can Lead to AdditionMethamphetamine Abuse Costs U.S. $23.4 BillionDrug Rehab Centers in Los Angeles

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