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News and Notes   |    
Annual Survey Finds Decrease in Teen Drug Use and Rise in Prescription Drug Abuse by Young Adults
Psychiatric Services 2007; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.58.10.1384
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In 2006 an estimated 8.3% of the U.S. population age 12 or older were current users of illicit drugs, according to data from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). In the past five years illicit drug use declined 16% among adolescents (ages 12 to 17). In 2006 the proportion of adolescents who acknowledged past-month drug use was 9.8%, which is a significant drop from the 2002 rate of 11.6%. Specifically, current marijuana use by adolescents has declined significantly over the past five years, from 8.2% in 2002 to 6.7% in 2006.

Overall rates of illicit drug use are higher among young adults (ages 18 to 25) than in any other age group: 22.2% for those ages 18 to 20 and 18.3% for those ages 21 to 25. The 2006 NSDUH data highlight the growing abuse of prescription drugs among young adults, which increased 19% between 2002 (5.4%) and 2006 (6.4%). The increase was largely attributable to use of pain relievers, but use of tranquilizers also increased significantly between 2002 and 2006.

Slightly more than half of Americans age 12 or older (50.9%) reported being current alcohol drinkers in 2006. More than a fifth of the population (23.0%) reported past-month binge drinking (five or more drinks on the same occasion), and 6.9% reported heavy drinking (binge drinking on at least five days in the past month). The rate of binge drinking in 2006 among young adults was 42.2%, and the rate of heavy drinking was 15.6%. Among adolescents the rate of current alcohol use was 16.6%, and binge and heavy drinking rates in this age group were 10.3% and 2.4%, respectively.

In 2006 an estimated 29.6% of Americans age 12 or older were past-month users of a tobacco product. Between 2002 and 2006, past-month cigarette use decreased from 26.0% to 25.0%. Among adolescents past-month cigarette use declined significantly over the same period, from 13.0% to 10.4%; however, past-month smokeless tobacco use in this age group was higher in 2006 (2.4%) than in 2002 (2.0%).

The 2006 survey estimated that 22.6 million persons (9.2% of the population age 12 and over) may have had either substance abuse or dependence in the past year. About 2.5 million people received substance abuse treatment at specialty facilities in 2006.

NSDUH is an annual survey of approximately 67,500 people and is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is the primary source of information on the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population age 12 years and older. The 266-page Results From the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, which features more than 100 summary figures and tables, is available at oas.samhsa.gov/nsduhlatest.htm.

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