Report: State of the U.S. Drug Affair
A new government report released last week on American’s drug usage resulted in a wave of reports that were noticeably either for or against current U.S. drug policy. Drug statistics were used as swords with advocating and dissenting groups slashing their opposition’s findings, picking and choosing the figures that looked to best support their particular views.
In this article, we look at these raw drug statistics in an attempt to understand the true illegal drug situation in the nation.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), was based on interviews with 67,500 Americans. Although some trends were recognized, the overall view is that little has changed regarding the frequency and rate of American’s drug usage.
Teen Drug Use Slightly Down; Baby Boomers Drug Use Doubling
One of the trends recognized in the report is that-for the fifth year in a row-overall drug, tobacco and alcohol use declined .3 percent among adolescents aged 12-17, dropping from 9.8 percent in 2006 to 9.5 percent in 2007.
On the other hand, drug use among people ages 50-59 mushroomed. In 2007, the level of drug use in that age group more than doubled to 4.1 percent as baby boomers continued to use drugs into their later years and graduated into the older age group.
Young Adults, Ages 18-25: Rx Abuse Up, Cocaine & Meth Use Down
Prescription drug abuse among people aged 18-25 years rose 12 percent (to 4.6 percent), with prescription pain relievers found to be the prescription remedy of choice.
However, the most significant number in the report may be that young adults decreased their cocaine use by 23 percent (to 1.7 percent) and also cut their methamphetamine use by 33 percent (to 0.4 percent).
The survey attributed the decline to increased criminal law enforcement and reduced supply, resulting in higher prices and diminished purity; however, other governmental figures apparently contradict that statement. (The New York Times noted the following in a July 2 editorial, “according to United States government figures, 1,421 metric tons of cocaine were shipped through Latin America to the United States and Europe last year -39 percent more than in 2006.”)
The Big Picture Shows Little Change
When we look at the big picture, the number of adults using illicit drugs has stayed at about the same level as previous years. The report states that about one in five young adults admitted to using illicit drugs within the previous month.
Overall, 20 million Americans over the age of 12 reported using illicit drugs in the past month. Marijuana was overwhelmingly the drug of choice, with 14.4 million people acknowledging using the drug.
Critics said these stagnant drug usage rates show that current U.S. drug-reduction strategies haven’t worked, while the White House touted the decline in teen drug usage as a victory in the war against drugs.
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