Young adults appear to be the group showing the greatest increase in drug use according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In addition, according to the new study, the increase has largely been driven by more marijuana use and there are the numbers to prove it. In fact, in 2010 some 17.4 million Americans were using marijuana, compared with 14.4 million in 2007, the researchers found. This is an increase in the rate of marijuana use from 5.8% in 2007 to 6.9% in 2010.

Peter J. Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Office of Applied Studies comments:

“I don’t know why there is an increase in marijuana, but that almost explains the increase in drug use. That’s the driving trend. The group that seems to be standing out among everybody is the 18 to 25 year olds. These are the people who are going to college, starting in the workforce and starting families. This is a whole group of people we haven’t focused on. We have to intervene much earlier, before they get into trouble. We need to take what we are learning about helping people reduce their alcohol and tobacco use and figure out how to apply that to these other drugs in our society. We need to intervene before they need treatment or go to jail.”

In fact, the number of Americans using illegal drugs has continued to rise, reaching 22.6 million, or a whopping 8.9% of the population in 2010.

The illicit use of prescription painkillers has also been increasing, with 55% getting these drugs from a friend or relative. Only 4.4% of those using these drugs got them from a drug dealer, and less than 1% purchased them over the Internet.

SAMHSA Administrador Pamela S. Hyde continues:

“We stand at a crossroads in our nation’s efforts to prevent substance abuse and addiction. These statistics represent real lives that are at risk from the harmful and sometimes devastating effects of illicit drug use. This nation cannot afford to risk losing more individuals, families and communities to illicit drugs or from other types of substance abuse. Instead, we must do everything we can to effectively promote prevention, treatment and recovery programs across our country.”

Well it is not all bad news it appears. For example, the number of people using methamphetamine has dropped considerably by about half between 2006 and 2010, going from 731,000 to 353,000. Also cocaine use has dropped from 2.4 million users in 2006 to 1.5 million users in 2010.

Let’s not forget that alcohol is considered a drug and also can be abused. The good statistics state that there was a decrease in teen drinking between 2009 and 2010, from 14.7% to 13.6%. Tobacco use has also gone down from 11.6% in 2009 to 10.7% in 2010.

Bruce Goldman, director of Substance Abuse Services at the Zucker Hillside Hospital of the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Glen Oaks, New York adds:

“Alcohol is the number one drug people seek treatment for, cannabis has been and remains number two. What has changed is number three prescription opioid abuse and/or heroin abuse as opposed to cocaine, which used to be number three. Where we need to put our focus is in changing attitudes, which takes a long time. We have many more options in treating people with substance abuse disorders and there are effective treatments available.”

Written by Sy Kraft