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Is Drug Use Increasing or Decreasing In The U.S.?

If you live in the United States, you may have noticed the substance use problem which plagues so many people. Millions every year struggle in the face of substance use and addiction. But is this issue increasing in the United States? The answer is not a simple one. To start, drug trends are measured individually and as a whole. In other words, trend reports are taken on individual use of specific drugs, such as heroin, marijuana, and cocaine. Then, overall drug use is measured in total. In addition, demographics are measured in regards to who is abusing drugs, from which race, to which age, to which sex, and more. Finally, overdose rates are also measured to see which substances are having the most dangerous impacts on society.

Understanding Drug Use Trends

To fully understand whether drug use is increasing or decreasing, it is necessary to understand some facts about drug use:

  • “More than half of illicit drug users begin with marijuana,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
  • The second most commonly used substance (for new, illicit drug use) is prescription medications.
  • Many people first try substances recreationally during teen years.
  • Drug use occurs most in people aged between teen years to the early twenties.
  • Alcohol disorders/ binge drinking are more common among men than women.
  • Alcohol is the most used substance after marijuana.
  • There is a “treatment gap” according to NIDA. Only a small percentage of people who need treatment for substance use receive the care they need.

As NIDA states, marijuana use is increasing. Reports in 2013 showed marijuana use for the U.S. equated to 7.5% of the population or 19.8 million people. This number reflected an increase from the 2007 report, which showed 5.8%, or 14.5 million people. Perhaps some people consider marijuana a harmless, natural substance. Indeed, many Americans are pushing for the legalization of it. [inline_cta_two] Despite this, it is currently an illegal substance, with growing trends of use in recent years. Further, marijuana is considered a “gateway” drug; while it may not have all the staggering health effects of other drugs, and many believe it is not highly addictive, it may lead to use of other substances. It is in this way that the increase in marijuana use is troubling. It is important to note here, that marijuana has been shown to be addictive, and that it also carries significant health risks, including decreased amounts of dopamine, and a possible link to depression and schizophrenia. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, illicit drug use has increased. They report that in 2002, 8.3% of the population used these drugs, in comparison to 9.4% in 2013. A welcome fact, however, is that NIDA shows that the numbers for most types of drug use are decreasing, or at least remaining stable, and they do note that this overall increase is due mainly to the surge in marijuana use. When looking at staggering numbers, such as the 6.5 million people in the U.S. who had used prescription drugs over one month’s span in 2013, or the 1.3 million who used hallucinogens, this may not seem like good news. What is important to remember is that these numbers are not on the rise. Further, use of cocaine has actually decreased. Reports of cocaine use totaled 1.5 million in 2013—a significant decrease from the 2.0 to 2.4 million estimated from 2002 to 2007. Methamphetamine use increased by a margin of nearly two-thirds from 2007 to 2013. But alcohol use, one of the most commonly used substances saw a slight decrease both in underage binge drinking and in incidents of driving under the influence. Reports from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, as referenced by the American Society of Addiction Medicine in 2014, reflected the same trends. That is, marijuana use continued to increase, many other substance use forms stabilized, and another significant, troubling trend: heroin use is also on the rise. One article in Forbes suggests some reasoning behind the continued uprise of heroin use. First, the overall decrease in use among other substances made way for an increase in other drug use; heroin closed this gap. Also, heroin may be more readily available to those afflicted with substance use, as it is more affordable, especially when compared with other narcotics, such as prescription drugs. Another possibility is that prescription opioids may be the gateway to the use of more harmful narcotics, such as heroin. Once a person no longer has a prescription but has developed an addiction, he or she may undergo compulsive cravings and a need to fill the void. In sum, though drug use trends are rising overall, some are decreasing or becoming stable. This trend accounts for millions of people in need of substance use treatment. The percentage of people that actually make it into treatment is far too low, and that is a fact that cannot be ignored.

Decreasing Drug Use

So what is the missing link needed to help decrease current substance use trends? Treatment. Preventative measures and treatment may significantly help decrease the numbers. For instance, there are certain risks associated with use. Protective factors may help prevent these risks—a child who grows up with a lack of parental involvement or care may be at a heightened risk for substance use later in life. The preventative protective factor, in this case, would be increased parental involvement. Though the solution to preventing substance use is not always a simple one, measures can be taken to reduce the risk of later use. Treatment for those afflicted with substance use is available in many forms. Therapy exists to treat physical, mental, and emotional health. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one type and works by teaching participants to form new lifestyle habits that build a life without substance use. Research finds that medication therapy helps greatly to ease the withdrawal process or to help wean off substance use. Others may benefit from counseling, which helps people to cope with the range of emotions and thoughts that can result from substance use disorders. In any treatment decision, though, it is imperative that one has access to resources and information to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Reversing The Trend: Get Help For Substance Use Treatment

The increase in illicit drug use is a great cause for concern. Overdose rates for heroin continue to rise, and use of alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs remains high, even if they are not changing significantly. But the ever glimmering hope within these dark facts is that treatment is available. Too many people do not get the help they need and deserve, but you do not have to be one of them. Call us today at 844-470-0410 for more information on treatment, connection to resources, and to begin your recovery.