Teens Taking More Prescription Drugs Illegally

Fewer American kids are smoking pot and taking LSD and Ecstasy, according to a government report based on 2003 numbers. However, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health also shows more are abusing prescription drugs. The data show a 5 percent decline in the number of 12- to 17-year-olds who say they have smoked marijuana. A little more than 6 percent of teens, 14.6 million people, use marijuana. 

That rate, along with the rates for cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin, were similar to 2002 rates. The survey shows greater drops among those in the same age group using Ecstasy and LSD, down 41 percent and 54 percent, respectively. 

Teens reported drops in use of specific drugs during the last year from the 2002 study: 

• LSD use went from 1.3 percent to 0.6 percent 
• Ecstasy use went from 2.2 percent to 1.3 percent 
• Methamphetamine use dropped from 0.9 percent to 0.7 percent. 

However, the survey found more people had tried prescription drugs when they didn’t need them for medical reasons. An estimated 6.3 million — 2.7 percent of the population over 12 — took unprescribed drugs. An estimated 4.7 million used pain relievers, 1.8 million used tranquilizers, 1.2 million used stimulants and 300,000 used sedatives. About 10.9 million teenagers reported drinking alcohol in the month prior to the survey interview in 2003 — 29 percent of the group. These 2003 rates were essentially the same as those obtained from the 2002 survey. 

An estimated 13.6 percent of people 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the 12 months prior to the interview in 2003 (a decrease from 14.2 percent in 2002). These percentages represent 32.3 million people in 2003 and 33.5 million people in 2002. Tobacco Use Overall, the study indicates 20 million people age 12 and older — including adults — were using illegal drugs within a month of the survey. That’s 8.2 percent of the population. 

The overall rate of drug use did not change from 2002 to 2003. Varying ethnic groups showed different levels of illicit drug use: 

• American Indians/Alaska natives — 12.1 percent 
• Reporting two or more races — 12 percent 
• Pacific Islanders — 11.1 percent 
• Blacks — 8.7 percent 
• Whites — 8.3 percent 
• Hispanics — 8 percent 
• Asians — 3.8 percent 

Unemployed adults had an 18.2 percent rate of current drug use, while those working full time came in at 7.9 percent. 

Source: The KansasCityChannel.com September 2004 

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