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Rate of Prescription Drug Abuse Among Young Adults Holds Steady at 5 Percent

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A national survey released Wednesday finds 5.3 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes in the past month, similar to rates in the previous two years. The survey found rates of teen drinking, including binge drinking, in the past month were lower last year compared with 2002 and 2009.

Prescription drug abuse rates among adults ages 18 to 25 was significantly lower last year than in 2009, when 6.4 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report was released in conjunction with the 24th annual National Recovery Month.

SAMHSA found 11.2 percent of Americans drove under the influence of alcohol at least once last year, compared with 11.1 percent in 2011 and 14.2 percent in 2002. Approximately 9 percent of the population—23.9 million Americans—12 years and older used illicit drugs in the previous month.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, the survey found, with 7.3 percent of Americans saying they are current users. The number of people ages 12 and older who said they used heroin in the past year increased from 373,000 in 2007, to 669,000 in 2012.

“These findings show that while we have made progress in preventing some aspects of substance abuse we must redouble our efforts to reduce and eliminate all forms of it throughout our nation,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “These statistics represent real people, families and communities dealing with the devastating consequences of abuse and addiction. We must strive to prevent further abuse and provide the hope of treatment and recovery to all people needing help.”

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