Illegal Drug Use Rose in 2009 in the US

Illegal drug use by Americans grew between 2008 and 2009, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), shows the overall rate of illicit drug use in the United States rose from 8.0 percent to 8.7 percent of the population aged 12 and older between 2008 and 2009.

This rise in overall drug use was driven in large part by an increase in marijuana use , the administration said.

Among the findings:

  • The estimated number of people who took ecstasy in a one-month period rose from 555,000 to 760,000.
  • The percent of the population who abuse prescription drugs rose from 2.5 percent to 2.8 percent.
  • Illegal drug use by youths aged 12 to 17 rose from 9.3 percent 10.0 percent. However, the 2009 rate is lower than it was in 2002.
  • Marijuana use by this age group increased from 6.7 percent to 7.3 percent.
  • Illicit drug use by young adults, aged 18-25, over a one-month period increased from 19.6 percent to 21.2 percent.

Wake up call

"These results are a wake-up call to the nation," said Pamela S. Hyde, an administrator for SAMHSA. "Our strategies of the past appear to have stalled out with generation 'next.' Parents and caregivers, teachers, coaches, faith and community leaders, must find credible new ways to communicate with our youth about the dangers of substance abuse ," she said.

Additionally, the number of youths who perceive that great risk of harm is associated with smoking marijuana once or twice a week dropped from 54.7 percent in 2007 to 49.3 percent in 2009.

"Today's findings are disappointing, but not surprising, because eroding attitudes and perceptions of harm about drug use over the past two years have served as warning signs for exactly what we see today. said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy.

Not all bad news

Despite some troubling trends, the survey shows continued progress in lowering levels of tobacco consumption by people over age 12. Cigarette use by this group has reached a historic low level, at 23.3 percent. The use of cocaine by those aged 12 or older also declined 30 percent since 2006.

NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older.

Live Science Staff
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