An increase in the use of marijuana is primarily responsible for a recent jump in the number of Americans who use illicit drugs, according to a Sept. 8 report.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that in 2010, 22.6 million Americans 12 or older--8.9 percent of the population--were current illicit drug users. The rate increased only minimally over 2009 but remains above the 2008 figure of 8 percent, SAMHSA said.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2010, 17.4 million Americans were current users of marijuana, compared to 14.4 million in 2007. The largest increase in marijuana consumption was among young adults ages 18-25. In 2009, 19.6 percent of young adults reported using marijuana, and by 2010 that figure rose to 21.5 percent.
"The trends are running in the wrong direction," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Kerlikowske said the recent decriminalization and medicalization of marijuana by some states might have led some people to believe that marijuana is not dangerous.
He urged families "to redouble their efforts to shield young people from serious harm by educating them about the real health and safety consequences caused by illegal drug use."