Illicit Drug Use Continues to Rise in America
Some are using the beginning of the great recession in 2008 as a benchmark for increases in drug use in the United States. It is true that drug use in America has risen from 8 percent in 2008 to 8.9 percent in 2010, but the recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health does tuck some tidbits of good news in as well.
A Growing Epidemic of Marijuana and Prescription Drug Abuse
The national drug survey involved 675,000 adult Americans from across the country as a representative sample. Overall, the survey indicates that 22.6 million Americans use illegal drugs. It seems that what is driving the statistic higher is an increased use of marijuana, which has grown from 14.4 million users in 2007 to 17.4 million users in 2010.
There is a potential link between new state laws that permit the medical use of marijuana and the observed increases. More research needs to be done in order to establish the connection with certainty. What is known is that the fastest growing demographic for marijuana use is adults aged 18-25 years. Marijuana use in that age group was 19.6 percent in 2008, but by 2010 it had risen to 21.5 percent. The news is disconcerting given the fact that this is a period of life when most young adults are establishing the foundations for their futures – going to college, starting a career and building a family.
Marijuana is not the only growing drug problem. Illegal use of prescription painkillers is also on the rise. Sadly, most abusers of prescription painkillers obtain them not from the Internet (less than 1 percent), nor from drug dealers (around 4 percent), but from close friends and family members (55 percent).
Waning Abuse of Meth, Cocaine & Other Drugs
The good news is that methamphetamine use is waning significantly from the 735,000 users in 2006 to 353,000 users in 2010. Also moving in a positive direction is the downward trend in cocaine use from 2.4 million in 2006 to 1.5 million in 2010. Further good news is found in the smaller numbers of teenagers abusing alcohol and tobacco. The figures reveal teen drinking was at 14.7 percent in 2009, falling to 13.6 percent by 2010, while teen smoking decreased from 11.6 percent in 2009 to just over 10 percent in 2010.
Unfortunately, not many who abuse these drugs ever get the help they need. It is estimated that 23.1 million Americans need of professional drug rehab treatment, yet only 2.6 million Americans are getting help. When Americans do seek professional help, it is usually for alcohol abuse (#1 reason for seeking treatment), followed by treatment for marijuana abuse (#2). This used to be followed by treatment for cocaine abuse, but now the #3 reason for seeking drug treatment is abuse of prescription painkillers and/or heroin abuse.
In the current cultural climate, it is unacceptable to smoke almost anywhere. Why we don’t feel the same about alcohol and marijuana use is a question that deserves to be answered. Our own national survey is telling us that we have a serious problem we are not facing.