Prescription-drug abuse in the USA declined
last year year to the lowest rate since 2002 amid federal and state
crackdowns on drug-seeking patients and over-prescribing doctors.
adults drove the drop. The number of people 18 to 25 who regularly
abuse prescription drugs fell 14% to 1.7 million, the National Survey on
Drug Use and Health reported Monday. In 2011, 3.6% of young adults
abused pain relievers, the lowest rate in a decade.
survey, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration, collects data from interviews with 67,500 people age 12
Administrator Pamela Hyde said the
decrease in abuse indicates that public health and law enforcement
efforts to curb abuse of prescription drugs, such as the powerful
painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone, work.
2011, 6.1 million people abused narcotic pain pills, tranquilizers,
stimulants and sedatives, down from 7 million people in 2010, the survey
found. Pain pill abuse dropped from 2.1% of the population in 2009 to
1.7% in 2011.
Still, the number of people
addicted to pain relievers grew from 936,000 in 2002 to 1.4 million in
2011. About a third of the addicts are 18 to 25, the survey found.
states operate prescription-drug monitoring programs, which can
identify doctors who prescribe excessive doses of the drugs and patients
who seek multiple prescriptions from different doctors, said Gil
Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy.
2011, 22.5 million Americans 12 or older, nearly 9% of the population,
said they regularly used illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine,
heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants or abused prescription drugs,
including pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives. While
cocaine abuse has dropped from 2.4 million regular users in 2006 to 1.4
million last year, heroin abuse is rising, the survey found. The number
of people who reported regular heroin use grew from 161,000 in 2007 to
281,000 in 2011, the survey found.
remains the most commonly abused drug at all ages. Among youth, while
drinking and smoking declined, marijuana use grew steadily since 2008,
the survey found. Another study, Monitoring the Future, which surveys
students in eighth and 10th grades, has also noted increasing marijuana
use. That study found that 12.4% of eighth- and 10th-graders had used
marijuana in the previous month, the highest rate since 2003.
"Marijuana is still bad news," Kerlikowske said.
44.8% of teens think smoking marijuana is risky, down from 54.6% in
2007, he said. Voter initiatives to legalize and regulate marijuana send
a message that marijuana is medicine, Kerlikowske said.
think they are getting a bad message on marijuana," he said. "I think
that the message that it's medicine and should be legalized is a bad
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director
of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates legalizing marijuana and
treatment over incarceration, says the U.S. should focus on public
health initiatives to curb drug use, reduce overdoses and halt the
spread of HIV and hepatitis.
"It's good to see
problematic use of alcohol and tobacco among young people continuing to
decline -- and worth noting that this good news has little to nothing
to do with arrests, incarceration or mandatory drug testing," Nadelmann
said. "Contrast this with marijuana use, which has increased somewhat
notwithstanding the fact that almost 800,000 people are arrested each
year for marijuana possession."