Fewer people abused prescription drugs last year than in 2007, reversing an upward trend in abuse of potent painkillers such as Oxycontin, a federal drug survey found.
People who once saw little risk in abusing prescription drugs are responding to health reports underscoring dangers of misuse, says Eric Broderick, acting administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health made public Thursday.
"If people perceive alcohol, drugs and tobacco as being risky, they are more inclined not to do it," says Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He credits last year's federally funded anti-drug ad campaign, which he called a "full-court press on prescription drugs."
About 6.2 million Americans — 2.5% of the population — said they abused prescription drugs in the past month in 2008, a decrease from 2.8% of the population in 2007, the survey found.
People who reported that they had used methamphetamine in the previous month also dropped dramatically, from 529,000 people in 2007 to 314,000 in 2008.
Overall, illicit drug use among Americans held steady. The drops in methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse were offset by increases among some age groups of marijuana and hallucinogen use, according to the survey of 67,500 people age 12 and older. Illegal drug use among people 50 to 59 increased from 2.7% in 2002 to 4.6% in 2008, a trend the report attributes to drug-using baby boomers who are getting older.
The survey found 8% of the population — about 20.1 million Americans — used an illicit drug in the past month — no change from 2007.
Despite a marijuana-focused anti-drug campaign during the Bush administration, marijuana remains the most common illicit drug: 6.1% of the population — 15.2 million people — reported past-month use, up from 5.8% in 2007. Among the 12-to-17 age group, 6.7% reported using marijuana in the previous month in 2008, the same percentage as in 2007.
By Donna Leinwand
September 11, 2009