Trends in Substance Abuse: Meth Is Out, Heroin Is In
Stories appear in the news on nearly a daily basis describing a trendy new drug, the explosion of a meth house, overdose deaths or some other tragic event due to drugs, alcohol and addiction. It can be hard to take away the real facts from these stories. To know what is really happening in the U.S. when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse, statistics and solid facts are helpful.
Every year the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) questions a random selection of close to 70,000 Americans. All participants are 12 years and older and the purpose of the survey is to estimate how many Americans are using various illicit drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and how they are using them. To get accurate data in this way helps with the implementation of preventive programs and treatment offerings for substance abusers. The study is conducted every year so that trends can be established.
The most recent NSDUH provides data for 2012. The latest results of the survey give a picture of drug and alcohol use in the U.S. that some may find surprising. Trends in the use of specific drugs show which are decreasing and which are exploding in popularity. The results also show trends in the ages of drug users, the prevalence of binge drinking and attitudes toward smoking.
Binge Drinking On The Rise
Binge drinking is on the rise and is considered a type of substance abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define binge drinking as having five or more drinks within a two-hour period for men, and four or more for women. This level and rate of drinking elevates a person’s blood-alcohol content to 0.08.
According to the NSDUH data, more than half of Americans are drinking. That represents over 130 million people. Of those, one quarter, or around 60 million people, binge drink. Not only does binge drinking have serious health consequences over the long term, it can also result in immediate problems, such as drunk driving and accidents.
Spike In Heroin Use
Methamphetamine, commonly called crystal meth, speed, or just meth, is a dangerous, destructive and highly addictive drug. Not only does the drug destroy lives through addiction and health problems, the way in which much of it is made has harmed or killed people. Meth is a drug that can be made with household chemicals and drugstore buys. For this reason, a decade ago, meth labs cropped up around the country and came with poisoning fumes and accidental explosions. The good news from the survey is that use of meth is decreasing. Nearly 731,000 people used meth in 2006, and for 2012 the number dropped to 440,000.
The bad news is that use of heroin is rapidly rising. Another very serious drug, heroin is extremely addictive and has the potential to cause an overdose on the first try. The number of Americans using heroin, according to NSDUH, doubled between 2007 and 2012, from 373,000 to 669,000.
Drug Use Among Baby Boomers Is Increasing
Drug use among the baby boomer generation is on the rise. Compared to a decade ago, the number of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 using drugs doubled. Among those aged 55 to 59, the rate tripled. Americans in this age group were young during the 1960s when drug use exploded. As they age, these people are still using drugs to some extent. They are using more than the generation before them ever did.
Having accurate information from the NSDUH is crucial in developing policies, substance abuse prevention plans and treatments for addicts and abusers. The survey information provides an accurate glimpse of what Americans were doing in 2012 and also how behaviors are changing. Some of the news was good: the number of teenagers smoking cigarettes has been cut in half over the last 10 years. Some news, though, like the explosion of heroin use, is less promising.