Consumer confidence may be down, but use of marijuana, meth (methamphetamine), and ecstasy, along with nonmedical use of prescription drugs, is up among Americans. Between 2008 and 2009, illicit drug use among people aged 12 years and older in the United States increased from 8.0 percent to 8.7 percent.
The new overall figure, which is the result of a national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and entitled the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), was mostly associated with a large increase in marijuana use. Approximately 67,500 people were surveyed.
Marijuana, Meth, and Ecstasy
The rate of marijuana use among youth aged 12 to 17 increased from 6.7 percent in 2008 to 7.3 percent in 2009. While this rise in marijuana use was significant, the 7.3 percent figure is lower than the 2002 level of 8.2 percent.
Overall illicit drug use among young people also rose, from 9.3 percent in 2008 to 10.0 percent in 2009. Of interest, however, is that the number of young people who believe smoking marijuana once or twice a week is harmful declined from 54.7 percent in 2007 to 49.3 percent in 2009.
When looking at the past-month use of ecstasy and methamphetamine, the survey found that the number of meth users rose from 314,000 in 2008 to 502,000 in 2009, and that among ecstasy users, the numbers increased from 555,000 in 2008 to 760,000 in 2009.
Among adults aged 18 to 25, overall past-month use of illicit drugs increased from 19.6 percent in 2008 to 21.2 percent in 2009. This increase was largely associated with more use of marijuana.
Some Good News about Drug Use
According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, “past month marijuana use was much less prevalent among youths who perceived strong parental disapproval for trying marijuana or hashish once or twice than among those who did not—4.8 percent versus 31.3 percent, respectively.” Cigarette use among people aged 12 years and older has reached a low of 23.3 percent, and cocaine use among the same age group has also declined 30 percent from 2006.
Results Not Surprising
Kerlikowske called the survey results “disappointing, but not surprising,” and said that the current approach by the National Drug Control Strategy, which focuses on “prevention, treatment, smart law enforcement and support for those in recovery,” is the right one. He added that “our efforts must be reinforced and supported by the messages kids get from their parents.”
Despite the increased use of marijuana, meth, ecstasy, and other illicit drugs among Americans, the number of people who receive specialized treatment for a substance abuse problem is far lower (2.6 million) than the number who need it (23.5 million).
by Deborah Mitchell