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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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More Americans Using Illicit Drugs

Study Shows Marijuana, Ecstasy Use Have Increased in the U.S.
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 17, 2010 -- Driven by increases in marijuana smoking, illicit drug use rose in 2009 to 8.7% of the population aged 12 years and older, up slightly from 8% in 2008, according to a new report.

The report also shows that the non-medical use of prescription drugs rose from 2.5% of the population in 2008 to 2.8% in 2009.

According to the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the estimated number of people who admitted they had used the street drug ecstasy in the past month rose from 555,000 in 2008 to 760,000 in 2009.

Methamphetamine use rose from 314,000 to 502,000 during the same period, according to the SAMHSA report.

Wake-Up Call

Some of the findings are disturbing and should serve as a wake-up call to the nation, says Pamela S. Hyde, JD, administrator of SAMHSA, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Our strategies of the past appear to have stalled out with generation ‘next’,” she says in a news release. “Parents and caregivers, teachers, coaches, faith and community leaders must find credible new ways to communicate with our youth about the dangers of substance abuse.”

The report says overall illicit drug use in the past month among young adults aged 18-25 years increased from 19.6% in 2008 to 21.2% in 2009.

The findings “are disappointing, but not surprising, because eroding attitudes and perceptions of harm about drug use over the past two years have served as warning signs for exactly what we see today,” says Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy.

“Fortunately, this administration’s National Drug Control Strategy, with its focus on prevention, treatment, smart law enforcement and support for those in recovery, highlights the right tools to reduce drug use and its consequences,” he says in the news release.

Steps Needed to Curb Illicit Drug Use

Efforts to curb illicit drug use “must be reinforced and supported by the messages kids get from their parents,” he says. “Past month marijuana use was much less prevalent among youths who perceived strong parental disapproval for trying marijuana or hashish once or twice than among those who did not -- 4.8% versus 31.3% respectively.”

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