CADCA Publisher September 10, 2015

2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Finds Marijuana Use Continuing to Rise Among Youth

Washington, D.C.–The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report shows progress in reducing some forms of substance use – especially among teens. Substance use levels in many areas, however have remained relatively constant.

SAMHSA issued its 2014 NSDUH report on mental and substance use disorders as part of the kick off for the 26th annual observance of National Recovery Month.

The report found some areas of progress, particularly among teens. For example, the percentage of adolescents aged 12 to 17 who were current (past month) tobacco users declined by roughly half from 15.2 percent in 2002 to 7.0 percent in 2014. Similarly, the level of adolescents engaged in past month illegal alcohol use dropped from 17.6 percent to 11.5 percent over the same period. The level of current nonmedical users of prescription pain relievers decreased from 3.2 percent in 2002 to 1.9 percent in 2014 among adolescents aged 12 to 17.

Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug. In 2014, roughly 8.4 percent of Americans age 12 and older were current users of marijuana – up from 7.5 percent in 2013. Marijuana use is especially growing among those aged 26 and older – from 5.6 percent in 2013 to 6.6 percent in 2014. The percentage of teens who were current marijuana users in 2014 (7.4 percent) was similar to recent years.

Although the survey shows non-medical pain reliever use continues to be the second most common type of illicit drug use, the percentage of people aged 12 or older in 2014 who were current nonmedical users of pain relievers (1.6 percent) was lower than in most years since 2002, and about the same as in 2013. However, current heroin use increased from 0.1 percent of the population age 12 and older in 2013 to 0.2 in 2014. That is a 100 percent increase.

Overall, the use of illicit drugs – including marijuana – among Americans aged 12 and older increased from 9.4 percent in 2013 to 10.2 percent in 2014. This was driven particularly by the increase in adult marijuana use, the survey suggests.

The survey also found that the number of young perceiving great harm in smoking marijuana at least once a week also fell significantly. Only a quarter of 16 and 17 year olds find smoking marijuana at least once a week to be harmful. 

“Declining alcohol and tobacco use and prescription drug abuse show promise that the substance abuse prevention field is making a dent in America’s drug and alcohol problem. We ask for an increased investment in substance abuse prevention programs— We know they work,” said CADCA Chairman and CEO Gen. Arthur T. Dean. “These data show that when our nation systematically and comprehensively invests the resources to reduce access and availability, and works to change norms and perceptions we can achieve major reductions in youth use rates.”

The fact that the public perceives marijuana as less harmful is troubling because it sends the wrong message to youth, Gen. Dean continued. “We will continue to work on evidence-based prevention to bring the numbers of youth who use marijuana down, and to continue to lower youth use of alcohol and tobacco, as well as the abuse of medicines.”

You can read the entire report here:

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