Adolescent Drug Abuse Falls in 2008

ROCKVILLE, Md.
Published: September 12, 2009

The misuse of prescription drugs decreased significantly between 2007 and 2008 among those aged 12 and older, including among adolescents, according to 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). However, the national survey showed that the overall level of current illicit drug use has remained level at about 8 percent.

Additionally, progress has been made in curbing other types of the illicit drug use.  For example, past month methamphetamine use among those aged 12 and older dropped sharply from approximately 529,000 people in 2007 to 314,000 in 2008.  Similarly, the level of current cocaine use among the population aged 12 and older has decreased from 1.0 percent in 2006 to 0.7 percent in 2008.

Promising results from the latest survey also were also found for the most part among youth (12 to 17 year olds).  Among youth there was a significant decline in overall past month illicit drug use, from 11.6 percent in 2002 to 9.3 percent in 2008. Although the rate of current marijuana use among youth has remained level at about 6.7 percent over the past few years there have been significant decreases in the current use of alcohol, cigarettes and non-medical use of prescription drugs since 2007.  Non-medical use of prescription drugs dropped from 3.3 percent in 2007 to 2.9 percent in 2008.

Historically, young adults have had the highest rates of substance abuse, and for most types of illicit substance abuse the levels have remained steady over the past year.  However, over the past three years there has been a steady drop in the rate of heavy alcohol use by full time college students aged 18 to 22 – from a high of 19.5 percent in 2005 to 16.3 percent in 2008.

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Despite many positive trends, the most recent NSDUH survey also reveals continuing problems and setbacks.  For example there were significant increases in the rates of Ecstasy and LSD use among youth over past few years.  The level of past year Ecstasy use in 2008 for youth was 1.4 percent – lower than the 2.2 percent in 2002, but higher than the lowest level of 1.0 percent reported in 2005.  Likewise, the 2008 level of past year LSD among youth of 0.7 percent, while lower than the 2002 level of 1.3 percent in 2002, is significantly higher than the lowest use rate of 0.4 percent reported in 2006.

Perhaps most notable, in view of the 20th anniversary of Recovery Month, this year’s NSDUH also continues to show a vast disparity between the number of number of people needing specialized treatment for a substance abuse problem and the number who actually receive it.  According to the survey 23.1 million Americans need specialized treatment for a substance abuse problem, but only 2.3 million (or roughly 10 percent of them) get it.

To read the full press release, click here. To read the full report, click here.

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