2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Finds Marijuana Use Continuing to Rise among Youth
CADCA Calls for Increased Investment in Substance Abuse Prevention Programs
Washington, D.C. – The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), showed a continued increase in marijuana use rates among youth and adults. For example, the percentage of those 12 or older who were current users of marijuana jumped from 6.9 percent (or 17.4 million) in 2010 to 7 percent (or 18.1 million) in 2011, continuing the upward trend seen over the past few years.
Among youth aged 12 to 17, current marijuana use rose from 7.4 percent in 2010 to 7.9 percent in 2011.
That’s why Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) is calling for greater funding for substance abuse prevention programs, particularly programs that have effectively reduced youth alcohol, tobacco and drug use, such as the Drug Free Communities Program.
According to the survey, in 2011 an estimated 3.1 million persons aged 12 or older used an illicit drug for the first time within the past 12 months. This averages to about 8,400 new users per day. A majority of these past year illicit drug initiates reported that their first drug was marijuana (67.5 percent).
Not only was marijuana use at greater levels among youth, but attitudes toward drug use, which are often considered indicators of future use, have softened, as the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey also found last year, with fewer youth reporting that they see a risk of harm in smoking marijuana.
The percentage of youth ages 12 to 17 indicating great risk in smoking marijuana once a month decreased from 34.4 percent in 2007 to 27.6 percent in 2011, and the rate of youths perceiving great risk in smoking marijuana once or twice a week also decreased from 54.6 percent in 2007 to 44.8 percent in 2011. Consistent with decreasing trends in the perceived risk of marijuana use, the prevalence of past month marijuana use among youth increased between 2007 (6.7 percent) and 2011 (7.9 percent).
Among the good news in the survey was that cigarette and alcohol use, and prescription drug abuse declined:
• The rate of past month tobacco use among 12 to 17 year olds declined from 10.7 percent in 2010 to 10 percent in 2011.
• Past month, binge, and heavy drinking rates among underage persons declined between 2010 and 2011. Past month alcohol use declined from 28.8 to 25.1 percent, while binge drinking declined from 19.3 to 15.8 percent, and heavy drinking declined from 6.2 to 4.4 percent.
• In 2011, there were 6.1 million persons (2.4 percent) aged 12 or older who used prescription type psychotherapeutic drugs non-medically in the past month. These estimates were lower than the estimates in 2010 (7.0 million or 2.7 percent).
• Among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate of current nonmedical use of prescription-type drugs declined from 4.0 percent in 2002 to 2.8 percent in 2011. The rate of nonmedical pain reliever use declined during this period from 3.2 to 2.3 percent among youths.
“The lower levels of use for 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. 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. However, our nation needs to focus much more attention and resources on effective prevention strategies to reduce marijuana use and abuse,” said CADCA Chairman and CEO General Arthur T. Dean.
“We all pay for the long-term health effects of using marijuana. Marijuana use is not harmless, it is addictive, causes drugged driving vehicle crashes, exacerbates psychosis, and interferes with brain functioning, especially when first-use is in adolescence,” Gen. Dean concluded.