National survey shows youth drug use down 24% over past decade

newspaperThe Obama administration released new health survey data showing a significant decline in drug use among our nation’s young people. The full results of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) were released Tuesday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a follow-up to a short report released at the beginning of September as part of the 25th anniversary of National Recovery Month.

The 2013 NSDUH results suggest that the Administration’s efforts to reduce drug and alcohol use among young people is working. The rate of current illicit drug use among adolescents aged 12-17 was 8.8 percent, down 13 percent from 2009 (10.1%) and 24 percent from the recent peak of 11.6 percent in 2002. The report also found a decline in rates of past-month and binge drinking among adolescents aged 12 to 17.  An estimated 11.6 percent of adolescents reported past-month drinking in 2013, versus 12.9 percent in 2012, and 6.2 percent reported binge drinking versus 7.2 percent the previous year.

This new data also showed we are making progress in curbing the national epidemic of opioid abuse. In 2013, the rate of current non-medical use of pain relievers among Americans 12 or older dropped 19.0 percent since 2009, and among young adults aged 18 to 25, the rate declined 31 percent.  The abuse of opioids, a group of drugs that includes heroin and prescription painkillers, has a devastating impact on public health and safety in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 110 Americans died on average from drug overdose every day in 2011. Prescription drugs were involved in more than half of the 41,300 overdose deaths that year, and opioid pain relievers were involved in nearly 17,000 of these deaths. There were about 4,400 drug poisoning deaths related to heroin. Drug overdose deaths even outnumbered deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Current non-medical use of pain relievers was reported by 4.5 million (1.7%) Americans 12 or older.  This rate is unchanged from 2011 and 2012 (1.7% and 1.9%), but is lower than in 2009 and 2010 (2.1% and 2.0%).  Among young adults (18 to 25), who typically have the highest rates of non-medical use, the rate declined from 3.8% in 2012 to 3.3% in 2013, and is down from the 12-year peak of 5.0% in 2006.
  • Among youth (12 to 17), current illicit drug use was lower in 2013 (8.8%) compared to 2012 (9.5%).  Marijuana use among youth in 2013 is down from 2011 (7.1% vs. 7.9%).
  • In 2013, an estimated 24.6 million Americans 12 or older were current illicit drug users; this represents 9.4% of this population.  This estimate is unchanged from 2012.

In July, the Office of National Drug Control Policy released the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy, the Obama Administration’s primary blueprint for drug policy in the United States. The Strategy builds on the Administration’s record of drug policy reform by outlining a series of actions that will continue to expand health interventions and “smart on crime” alternatives proven to reduce drug use and its consequences in America. The Strategy also notes significant increases in heroin and prescription drug abuse as key challenges and highlights a series of actions currently underway to reduce the impact of the opioid epidemic in the United States.

In support of this Strategy, the President has requested $25.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2015.  Federal funding for public health programs that address substance use has increased every year, and the portion of the Nation’s drug budget spent on drug treatment and prevention efforts (43%) has grown to its highest level in over 12 years. Moreover, the $10.9 billion request for treatment and prevention is now nearly 20% higher than the $9.2 billion requested for Federally-funded domestic drug law enforcement and incarceration. The FY 2015 Budget request also includes $3.9 billion for interdiction, and $1.4 billion for international programs.

To read the Strategy and learn more about the Administration plan, visit: www.wh.gov/drugpolicyreform

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