Youth Drug Use at a Five Year Low, New Survey Shows

Friday, September 7, 2007 General News
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 Overall illicit drug useamong teens ages 12-17 is at a five year low, according to the largest andmost comprehensive study of drug use in the United States, released today.But when it comes to youth, nonmedical use of painkillers continues to be anarea of concern, with more recent initiates (2.2 million) than any illicitdrug, reveals the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Since 2002, current illicit drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds is downfrom 11.6 percent (2002) to 9.8 percent (2006), marking a cumulative decreaseof 16 percent. In that same time period, current marijuana use also decreased18 percent (from 8.2 percent in 2002 to 6.7 percent in 2006). The decline inmarijuana use was particularly pronounced in male youths, from 9.1 percent in2002 to 6.8 percent in 2006, or a decrease of 25 percent.

Abuse of prescription drugs among youth, however, continues to be an areaof concern. Nonmedical use of painkillers was the illicit drug use categorywith the largest number of recent initiates among persons aged 12 or older(2.2 million). According to the study, seven million persons aged 12 or olderused prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically in the past month.Of these, 5.2 million used painkillers, a 10 percent increase from 2005 (4.7million). And, among persons aged 12 or older who used painkillersnonmedically in the past 12 months, 55.7 percent reported that they obtainedthe drugs from "a friend or relative for free."

"Teens are getting the message about the harms of marijuana and arechanging their behavior -- for the better," said John P. Walters, Director ofNational Drug Control Policy. "However, youth abuse of prescription drugsremains a troubling concern. With prescription drug abuse, we're confrontinga different kind of drug threat-one that lurks not in dark alleys, but inmedicine cabinets within our homes. Parents have been vital to reducing teenuse of street drugs, and now they must engage to prevent the abuse ofprescription drugs."

The Office of National Drug Control Policy conducts the Nation's mostvisible effort to prevent teen drug use through the National Youth Anti-DrugMedia Campaign. Collaborating with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America,the Campaign targets youth, particularly those aged 14-16. It also reachesparents, encouraging them to talk to their teens about drugs and monitor theirbehaviors, actions shown to reduce drug use.

The NSDUH 2006 study reaffirms the important role of parents in keepingtheir teens drug-free.

In 2006, current use of illicit drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol (includingbinge drinking) was lower among youths aged 12 to 17 who reported that theirparents always or sometimes engaged in monitoring behaviors than among youthswhose parents seldom or never engaged in such behaviors. And most youths(90.4%) reported that their parents would strongly disapprove of their tryingmarijuana once or twice. Current marijuana use was also much less prevalentamong youths who perceived strong parental disapproval for trying marijuanaonce or twice than for those who did not.

Experts encourage parents to recognize that their teens still want theirguidance, even if it may seem they are fighting for more independence, and totake action. "While teens' lives are crowded with many different, and oftenconflicting, messages, this is just further proof that parents matter the mostto their teens when it comes to making important decisions," said Dr.Phillippe Cunningham, professor, Department of Psychiatry and BehavioralSciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Family Services ResearchCenter. "The youth trends in prescription drug abuse are troubling, which isanother reason why it's so critical for parents to talk to their teens andstay involved in their lives during these critical years."

Released by the Substance Abuse and Me


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