Sunday, September 17, 2006

Drug use falls, except among older adults

Youngsters are using fewer illegal
drugs but a spike in use has been seen among older adults,
perhaps because a few aging baby boomers have clung to their
rebellious ways, according a U.S. substance abuse report
published on Thursday.

Just 6.8 percent of teenagers aged 12 to 17 said they used
marijuana in 2005, down from 8.2 percent in 2002, according to
the annual survey done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration.

Overall illicit drug use also fell, from 11.6 percent in
2002 who said they had used drugs in the past month to 9.9
percent in 2005, the report said.

"Something important is happening with American teens,"
said John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy.

"They are getting the message that using drugs limits their
futures, and they are turning away from the destructive
patterns and cruelly misinformed perceptions about substance
abuse that have so damaged previous generations," he said.

But baby boomers, now entering their 50s and 60s, are
apparently not all tuning in to the message.

The rate of current illicit drug use increased from 2.7
percent among adults aged 50 to 59 in 2002 to 4.4 percent in

"Could kids be rejecting drugs because it's some lame thing
that old people do?," asked Tom Riley, a spokesman for the
White House National Office of Drug Control Policy.

"To what extent is boomer 'recreational' use now more
accurately understood as 'dependency'?"

The illegal use of alcohol fell among teens, with 16.5
percent of 12- to 17-year-olds saying they were drinkers and
9.9 percent reporting binge drinking -- defined as having five
or more drinks in a row. Both are down more than a full
percentage point from 2004.


"The news today is there is a fundamental shift in drug use
among young people in America," said Assistant Surgeon General
Eric Broderick, who is SAMHSA Acting Deputy Administrator.

"We first saw this shift toward healthier decisions when
rates of tobacco use among young people began to go down. Now,
we see a sustained drop in rates of drug use. We will see if
the decline in drinking among 12-to 17-year-olds becomes a
continued pattern as well," he said.

But certain dangerous patterns of alcohol use did not
change -- nearly 23 percent of all people aged 12 and older
admitted to binge drinking.

"This translates as about 55 million people, comparable to
the 2004 estimate," SAMHSA said in a statement. "The binge
drinking rate among young adults ages 18-25 was 41.9 percent,
and the heavy drinking rate was 15.3 percent."

Close to 89 percent of people who said they had tasted
alcohol for the first time were under the legal drinking age of
21, the survey found.

About 6 percent of people said they had smoked or eaten
marijuana in the past month, and 2.6 percent said they had
abused prescription drugs.

About 4 percent of people surveyed said they had used
methamphetamine. Just about 1 percent said they had used
cocaine, about the same as in past years, while about 0.1
percent used heroin, also not much of a change.

The survey found that 71.5 million Americans ages 12 and
older used tobacco. Just over 29 percent of people said they
had smoked or chewed tobacco in the past month.

Among children aged 12 to 17 tobacco use fell to 10.8
percent in 2005 from 13 percent in 2002.

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