Marijuana Use Up, Prescription Drugs Lose Favor With Youth
September 25, 2012

American Kids Choose Marijuana Over Prescription Drugs

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

A new study shows that many young people in the US are over their fling with prescription drugs and have gone back to their old standby, marijuana, when they need a vice. According to the numbers in this report, underage youth are also shying away from binge and heavy drinking, a trend which has been continuing since 2002.

The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted this study and released these numbers Monday in conjunction with the 23rd annual national observance of National Recovery Month.

For all these changes, children aged 12 to 17 and adults over the age of 26 continued to abuse prescription drugs at the same rate as last year´s report.

According to their numbers, the number of children aged 18 to 25 who abused prescription drugs fell by 14% in 2011. Whereas 2 million young adults reported abusing prescription drugs for other purposes in 2010, this number dropped to 1.7 million the following year.

"Behind each of these statistics are individuals, families and communities suffering from the consequences of abuse and addiction," said Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA´s administrator in a press statement.

"We must continue to promote robust prevention, treatment and recovery programs throughout our country."

To find these numbers, SAMHSA polled 70,000 people aged 12 and older and asked them which, if any, drugs or substances they may have abused in the past month. This survey is a result of the data collected during 2011 and is representative of the entire nation´s drug use, says SAMHSA.

Currently, 8.7% of all Americans aged 12 and older are self-described drug users, a decrease of just .2% over last year´s numbers. All told, there were about 22.5 million American drug users.

“These findings show that national efforts to address the problem of prescription drug misuse may be beginning to bear fruit and we must continue to apply this pressure to drive down this and other forms of substance use,” said Ms. Hyde of the study.

As it has been in the past, Marijuana continues to be a popular choice in America, ranking as the number one substance used by those young people polled by SAMHSA. The number of marijuana users appears to be on the rise as well, as 7% of the population said they liked to light up as opposed to 5.8% in 2007. Marijuana use has remained mostly the same among kids 12 to 17 since 2009 however, with 7.9% of these kids admitted weed users as opposed to 2009´s 7.4%.

Elsewhere in the survey, fewer of America´s youth are trying heroin, down to 620,000 from last year´s 621,000. Heroin had seen a drastic rise between 2007 and 2010, climbing from 373,000 kids to 621,000 in 2010.

Hallucinogen use also fell by 19% among the youngsters, and cocaine and meth use has continued its decline since 2006, falling by 44 and 40 percent, respectively.

Fewer kids are trying tobacco, as well, another long term decline dating back to 2002.

Over the past decade, the number of young smokers has dropped by more than 15% according to SAMHSA.

“Drug use in this country creates too many obstacles to opportunity -- especially for young people,” said director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske,

“The good news is that we are not powerless against this problem. By emphasizing prevention and treatment, as well as smart law enforcement efforts that break the cycle of drug use, crime and incarceration, we know we can reduce drug use and its consequences in America.”