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Drug Use: Prescription Pills Up, Cocaine and Meth Down, Marijuana Holds Steady

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #550)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Nearly 20 million Americans used illicit drugs in the month before responding to an annual national survey last year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). That figure includes not only illegal drugs, but also prescription drugs used for non-medical purposes. The numbers come from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which interviewed 67,500 people for its annual report.

The numbers for overall drug use are similar to those for recent years, although the survey reported marginal declines in cocaine and methamphetamine use among young people. Among 18-to-25-year-olds, cocaine use dropped to 1.7%, down 23% from 2006, while meth use dropped to 0.4%, down about a third from 2006.

Drug control officials attributed the decline to increased interdiction and enforcement leading to higher prices. But the decline could reflect the generational learning curve typically observed in drug use patterns over time.

The declines in illegal stimulant use were countered by an increase in the non-medical use of prescription pain pills. According to the survey, 4.6% of young adults reported using pain pills for non-medical reasons last year, a 12% increase over 2006.

Marijuana remains by far the most commonly used illicit drug, with an estimated 14.4 million people reporting use in the previous month. That is about 5.8% of the population, down slightly from 6% in 2006.

Baby boomers moving into their fifties are taking their drug habits with them, according to the survey. Illicit drug use among those 55 to 59 more than doubled to 4.1% last year.

Despite millions of drug arrests and hundreds of billions of dollars spent enforcing drug prohibition in the past three decades, drug use levels remain roughly where they have been for the entire period.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

the war on drugs DOESN'T work..... you would think that they (the goverment) would figer that out and find a better way to help or deal with drug users. But once again I know that will not happen. What a bunch of morons.

Sat, 09/06/2008 - 3:59pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

How many legal prescription drugs are there which when abused are more harmful to your body than marijuana which is illegal and which you can go to jail for using? I have been asking myself that question for years. It must be the money.
PS To the previous comment. You have to have faith that common sense will ultimately prevail and keep supporting End the Drug War efforts.

Sun, 09/07/2008 - 8:28pm Permalink

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