Drug Abuse Shows Declines, but Still Major Problem

Article excerpt

Twice as many Americans abuse prescription drugs as use cocaine, according to an annual government survey. Nonmedical uses of psychotherapeutics rank second only to marijuana in illegal drug use, the 1992 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found. Psychotherapeutics cover prescription sedatives, tranquilizers, stimulants, and analgesics.

Illicit drug use overall among the U.S. population continued to decline, reflecting a trend that began in 1979. The number of Americans aged 12 and older using illegal drugs decreased 11% last year, from 12.8 million in 1991 to 11.4 million in 1992.

"The results of the 1992 Household Survey show that prevention efforts do yield results," Donna E. Shalala, secretary of Health & Human Services, said. "We need to continue and invigorate these efforts to ensure that present and future generations understand and avoid the perils of drug use and abuse.'

For psychotherapeutic Rxs, the 1991-92 drop was from 3.3 million users to 2.6 million, or 21%. In 1988, 3.4 million people reported using Rx drugs for nonmedical purposes. Use of cocaine, including crack, fell 32%, from 1.9 million to 1.3 million in 1991-92. Heroin was the only category to register an increase, jumping 29% to 107,000.

Almost nine million people reported using marijuana or hashish 1 in the past month when surveyed in 1992, making it the most common legal drug, used by 78% of all illicit drug users. Survey results were released last month. (Some totals add up to more than 11. …