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Fewer young people abusing prescription drugs.


WASHINGTON--Nationwide efforts to curb prescription drug abuse might be paying off, as fewer Americans reported nonmedical use of such drugs--pain relievers in particular--according to a government survey.

The most significant decline was seen among 18- to 25-year-olds, a 14% decline from 2 million users in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2011. The decline is particularly exciting, because this is a cohort where most substances are abused and a lot mental health disorders occur, said Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality which plans and manages the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. There was no significant change in the overall rate of past-month illicit drug use, which was estimated to be around 8.7% in 2011, compared with 8.9% during the previous year.

The government survey, released by SAMHSA and conducted since 1971, is based on statistical estimates from 67,500 face-to-face interviews with Americans aged 12 years or older.

Over the past 30 years, overall drug use among Americans has declined by 30%, said R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He added that the Obama administration has spent more than $31 billion in drug education and treatment programs over the last 3 years.

"We have repeatedly affirmed that we're not waging a war on drugs," Mr. Kerlikowske said. The administration is taking a holistic approach, instead, he said. "We understand that addiction is disease. It's not a moral failing. It can be treated, and recovery is possible."

The SAMHSA survey showed that in 2011, nearly 9% of Americans older than 12 years of age reported using an illicit drug, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription drugs used nonmedically.

Of the four categories of prescription drugs--pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives--the past-month use of pain relievers reported by people aged 12 years or older showed the sharpest decline from 2010, dropping from 2.0% to 1.7%. _Chat was followed by a 0.2% decline in tranquilizers, which were the second most commonly used prescription drugs. The misuse rates for stimulants (0.4%) and sedatives (0.1%) did not change.

More than halt of Americans reported being current alcohol drinkers, and more than a quarter said they used tobacco products.

Among the tobacco users, the prevalence of smoking among pregnant women is on the rise (17.6%), the survey showed, slowly creeping up to the ranges reported in 2002-2003 (18%), after reaching a low of 15.2% in 2008-2009.

Marijuana remains the most commonly used illicit drug. The number of users increased from 14.5 million in 2007 (5.8% of Americans) to 18.1 million in 2011 (7.0%).

Meanwhile, the rate of illicit drug use among adults aged 50-59 years has been increasing since 2002, from 2.7% to 6.3% in 2011. The trend is partly because baby boomers are entering this age group and their "lifetime rate of illicit drug use has been higher than those of older cohorts," authors write in the 150-page report.

The survey did not include data on synthetic drugs such as bath salts and synthetic marijuana, which have become a concern for state and federal officials only in recent years. Dr. Clark said officials are closely monitoring the states and hope that passage of state and federal bans on chemicals used to make the drugs would curb their spread.

Dr. Clark stressed the importance of physician education, whether it's through mentoring programs or continuing medical education, as he attributed the decline in prescription drug abuse rates partly to the efforts in the physician community

"Physicians need to be educated about prescription drug abuse; they need to educate their patients; and they should tell their patients what they should do with prescription drugs that they don't finish," he said.

More than half of those who reported abusing prescription pain medication said that they had received the drugs from a friend or relative for free. Only 4% reported having received the drugs from a dealer or stranger.
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Title Annotation:MENTAL HEALTH
Author:Miller, Naseem S.
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Date:Oct 15, 2012
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