A U.S. agency said on Thursday that cocaine and methamphetamine use among young adults declined significantly last year while abuse of prescription pain drugs increased.
Cocaine use declined by one-quarter and methamphetamine use by one-third while about one in five young adults last year acknowledged illicit drug use within the previous month.
However, illicit drug use among those aged 55 to 59 more than doubled, to 4.1 percent in 2007 from the previous year, according to the report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“The baby boomers have much higher rates of self-destructive behavior than any parallel age group we have data from,” said John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Walters, 55, is a boomer himself.
The annual government report assessing illicit drug use in the United States offered a mixed picture.
Overall, about 20 million people 12 or older reported using illicit drugs within the past month. Marijuana was the most popular by far, with 14.4 million acknowledging use of marijuana in the past month.
In those aged 12 to 17, drug use dipped from 9.8 percent in 2006 to 9.5 percent last year, continuing a five-year trend. Their use of alcohol and cigarettes also fell during the same period.
Walters said the earlier you use drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, the more likely you are to have a lifelong problem.
A survey by the World Health Organization that covered 17 countries this year showed that people in the U.S. were more likely than people elsewhere to have tried illicit drugs. The survey found that the U.S. tied New Zealand for the highest rate of marijuana use and far outpaced other countries on cocaine use.
“The use of drugs seems to be a feature of more affluent countries. The U.S., which has been driving much of the world’s drug research and drug policy agenda, stands out with higher levels of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies as well as a higher minimum legal alcohol drinking age than many comparable developed countries,” the WHO survey concluded.
According to the U.S. survey, more than half the people who tried drugs for the first time in 2007 used marijuana. The rate of new marijuana users came to about 6,000 people a day.
The report also said an estimated 24.3 million Americans ages 18 and up experienced serious psychological distress over the past year, and 16.5 million Americans had suffered at least one major depressive episode.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, being released Thursday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is based on interviews with about 67,500 people.
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