Youth Drug Use on Decline, Most Media Fail to Notice

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One of the two annual major drug use surveys in the US released its results this week, coinciding with National Recovery Month, according to the news release from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health contains a wealth of information and is hard to boil down, but there are some number that seem salient.

One of them is that current marijuana use by adults (past 30 days) has increased from 5.8% of the population in 2007 to 7.3% in 2012, or 18.9 million current users. However, current marijuana use among youths aged 12 to 17 decreased slightly from 2011 to 2012, 7.9% down to 7.2%, although it's up slightly from 2006 and 2007 (6.7% in both years), but in turn down from 2002 (8.2%). It doesn't look like teen marijuana use is going up generally, and it may be going down, but data like this is usually complicated.

Another is that heroin use has been going up, 373,000 past-year users in 2007 vs. 669,000 in 2012. But cocaine and methamphetamine use have dropped significantly during the same timeframe, while nonmedical use of prescription drugs has stayed about constant.

The other major annual drug use survey, Monitoring the Future, has a category that I believe is useful, "Illicit Drugs Other Than Marijuana." NSDUH doesn't seem to provide a breakdown on that. MTF has found that while use of any given illicit drug besides marijuana varies, the percentage using some illicit drug besides marijuana is roughly constant over time.

Also, drug use by older people (the "baby boomers") is way up relative to a decade ago, though still only about 7%.

How did the mainstream media do? Mixed. A number of outlets highlighted the increase in drug use by older persons, and I certainly agree that's a key finding. But most major outlets focused on the increase in marijuana use overall, while failing to note the decrease in teen marijuana use, including TimeCNN, US News and World Report, USA Today and Fox News. In the (quick and incomplete) look at Google News links that I took, only ABC noted that youth illicit drug use had dropped even as overall illicit use had increased.

I think it's a significant "fail" that most major media did not note that, given the importance place that youth drug use naturally holds in these concerns. Overall, though, the media did not "freak out" over the drug use stats, and that's a good thing.

I've only taken a fairly quick look at the new numbers. We'd welcome any insights readers have on this topic -- even if you think I'm wrong -- post to the comments below, or email us your thoughts or links to your own analyses.

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State stats.

It would be really interesting to see how these stats break down state by state.

How do the figures correlate to states that have tolerated marijuana use?

How does alcohol use correlate to marijuana use?

Are people drinking less as they smoke more?

I'd also like to see stats on crime, gang violence, domestic violence, mental illness, suicides, cancer, car accidents and for whatever else marijuana was blamed for; by state so reformed states can be compared to prohibition states. 

It's almost a year since Washington and Colorado legalized, surely someone must be collecting comprehensive data on the most original experiment on the planet. Has the sky fallen in or is it just another sunny day?

numbers

It says heroin use is up and then claims373 thousand in the past year but669 in 2012?I thought 2012 was the past year?Whatever,thats a huge jump,almost double.Heroin use has historically been at .05 %to 1%.That should peak out at 330thousand.If it was actually up to 669 thou that would be 2%.Actually,660 thou is 2%.That's historically unprecedented.The last time heroin was high it was at 1.5% during the vietnam war.Now it's above that?I wonder if the influx of very good Afghan heroin is the cause.Is air america back in business?Should I be back in business?Tough times to be an unemployed heroin dealer.

The Flower That Was Banned

The Flower That Was Banned [Marijuana Prohibition].

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