New Survey Data Show Drug Use Rising
At a press conference to kick off Recovery Month 2010, SAMHSA officials revealed troubling new data on substance use among people age 12 and older.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows the overall rate of current illicit drug use in the United States rose from 8.0 percent of the population age 12 and older in 2008 to 8.7 percent in 2009. This rise was driven in large part by increases in marijuana use, reported H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
Other increases included the nonmedical use of prescription drugs, which rose from 2.5 percent of the population in 2008 to 2.8 percent in 2009. In addition, the estimated number of past-month ecstasy users rose from 555,000 in 2008 to 760,000 in 2009, and the number of methamphetamine users rose from 314,000 to 502,000 during that period.
“As SAMHSA’s new survey data indicate, substance use is rising among all age groups and genders,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “Given the recent economic issues and given what we know about the relationship between economic challenges and certain types of substance use, perhaps these data are not surprising. But they do serve as a wake-up call to the Nation.”
Flat or increasing trends of substance use were reported among youth (12- to 17-year-olds). Although the rate of overall illicit drug use among young people in 2009 remained below 2002 levels, youth use was higher in 2009 compared to 2008 (10.0 percent in 2009, versus 9.3 percent in 2008, versus 11.6 percent in 2002).
The rate of current tobacco use or underage drinking among this group remained stable between 2008 and 2009.
“Our strategies of the past have stalled a bit with ‘Generation Next,’ ” said Administrator Hyde. “We must find new ways to communicate with our youth about the dangers of substance abuse.”
Of particular concern are data on marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug in 2009. There were 16.7 million past-month users. Among people age 12 or older, the rate of past-month marijuana use and the number of users in 2009 6.6 percent or 16.7 million) were higher than in 2008 (6.1 percent or 15.2 million) and in 2007 (5.8 percent or 14.4 million).
Among youth age 12 to 17, the rate of current marijuana use decreased from 8.2 percent in 2002 to 6.7 percent in 2006, remained unchanged at 6.7 percent in 2007 and 2008, then increased to 7.3 percent in 2009. For information by gender, see chart.
Moreover, the level of youth perceiving great risk of harm associated with smoking marijuana once or twice a week dropped from 54.7 percent in 2007 to 49.3 percent in 2009, marking the first time since 2002 that less than half of young people perceived great harm in frequent marijuana use.
R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said, “I cannot rule out that the constant discussion in the media of so-called medical marijuana and marijuana legalization and the downplay of marijuana dangers sends the wrong message to teens.”
In 2009, during their most recent treatment in the past year, 1.2 million people age 12 or older reported receiving treatment for marijuana use. That number is up from 947,000 people in 2008.
See the complete survey findings from SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.
Among youth age 12 to 17 in 2009, males had a higher rate than females of current marijuana use (8.3 percent for males versus 6.3 percent for females).
+ Difference between this estimate and the 2009 estimate is statistically significant at the .05 level.
Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (September 2010). Figure 2.9. Past-Month Marijuana Use among Youth Age 12 to 17, by Gender: 2002 to 2009. Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I. Summary of National Findings. Rockville, MD.