Prescription Drug Abuse Continues to Climb

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The lifetime prevalence of prescription pain reliever abuse by young adults rose from 22% to 24% from 2002 to 2004, a recent survey released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows.

Pain relievers with "significant increases" in lifetime prevalence of use for the 18-25 age group include Vicodin, Lortab, or Lorcet jumping from 15% to 16.5%; Percocet, Percodan, or Tylox increasing from 7.8% to 8.7%; and hydrocodone products rising from 16.3% to 17.4%.

OxyContin use rose from 3.6% to 4.3%, and oxycodone products from 8.9% to 10.1%.

In addition to increases in life use, past-month use also rose for this age group, from 4.1% to 4.7%, said John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, at the Sept. 8 press conference. The press conference was called to release the "Results from the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings."

"Too many Americans do not understand the addictive potential of this use," Mr. Walters said. He added that the escalation also needs to be taken more seriously by the treatment community. "This upward trend in painkiller abuse appears to be a steadily growing phenomenon and must be understood more clearly and confronted," he advised.

The annual survey of 67,500 individuals tracks abuse of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. It was released as part of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

On the good news front, the survey showed a 9% decrease in illicit drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds and a 7% decrease in marijuana use among young adults aged 18 to 25. Marijuana continues to be the most common illicit drug with 14.6 million current users, or a rate of 6.1%.

While current marijuana use among boys aged 12-17 dropped from 9.1% in 2002 to 8.1% in 2004, use for girls that age remained steady at 7%.

Among 18- to 25-year-olds, who have the highest illicit drug use rates, marijuana use declined from 17.3% in 2002 to 16.1% in 2004. The use of hallucinogens decreased from 1.9% in 2002 to 1.5% in 2004. Mr. Walters said the continued drop in use in the young adult population shows that "the progress of individuals who have changed the trajectory of substance abuse during late teens has now in this survey shown to enter the positive results of the young adult population. …