The Partnership at Drugfree.org Comments on National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Statement of Steve Pasierb, President and CEO

Survey: Mixed News on Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teens and Young Adults

Use Remains at Levels The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Calls an “Epidemic”

NEW YORK, N.Y. September 4, 2013 – Mixed news from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found that while prescription (Rx) drug abuse among young adults has decreased from its peak in 2009, the same progress has not been made to achieve year-to year declines (from 2010-2012) in abuse of Rx medicines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed abuse of prescription medicines an “epidemic” and one that continues to threaten the health and well-being of American teens and young people.

The new survey found the number of young adults (ages 18 to 25) who used prescription (Rx) drugs for non-medical purposes in the past month was 5.3 percent, similar to rates in 2010 and 2011, but significantly lower than the rate from 2009 (6.4 percent). NSDUH underscored the fact that the non-medical use of Rx medicines among children (ages 12 to 17) is also unchanged since 2010 – remaining at levels that are unacceptably high – and should serve as a renewed wake-up call for parents and caregivers to take action.

“These new data show the abuse of Rx medicine remains a pervasive problem among our nation’s youth and although there’s been some improvement among young adults in recent years, medicine abuse is a health concern that continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of our children,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “We tend to drastically underestimate the negative health consequences that medicine abuse is having on our kids. But the truth is that right now, this dangerous behavior is causing damage to families across the country. From the easy accessibility that teens have to medicines in their own homes, coupled with a low perception of risk in abusing them – to parents giving their own kids medicines that are not prescribed to them – we must all take action to stop this behavior. Our children’s lives depend on it.”

Other Key Findings from the NSDUH Survey

According to the new survey, the overall use of illicit drugs among Americans aged 12 and older remained stable since the last survey in 2011. The NSDUH report shows that 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit drug users – (9.2 percent of the population 12 and older).

Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug. In 2012, 7.3 percent of Americans were current users of marijuana – up from 5.8 percent in 2007. Although past month use of marijuana rose in nearly every age group between 2007 and 2012, it did drop among those aged 12 to 17 from 7.9 percent in 2011 to 7.2 percent in 2012.

In addition to marijuana, the use of heroin also rose significantly. The number of people aged 12 and older who used heroin in the past year rose from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 in 2012.

“We are quite troubled by the data showing an increase in heroin use.  As a recent study from the CDC showed, most  new heroin users have a history of abusing opioid pain relievers,” said Steve Pasierb.  “As people progress in their addiction to opiates, heroin becomes a cheaper alternative and brings with it a host of other public health problems.”

The Partnership at Drugfree.org Responds to Rx Epidemic with The Medicine Abuse Project

In response to the continued high prevalence of teen prescription medicine abuse as reported in the new NSDUH data, The Partnership at Drugfree.org is helping educate parents, community stakeholders and others about the dangers of this behavior. The Partnership at Drugfree.org leads The Medicine Abuse Project, a multi-year initiative with the goal of preventing half a million teens from abusing prescription medicine by the year 2017.

The Medicine Abuse Project provides comprehensive resources to parents, educators, health care providers, law enforcement officials and others about the growing problem of teen medicine abuse. The Project aims to mobilize parents and the public at large to take action and help solve the problem of teen substance abuse. This includes learning about the issue, talking with their kids about the dangers of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs and properly monitoring, safeguarding and disposing of excess Rx drugs in their homes.

For more information visit the The Medicine Abuse Project.

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