Many Americans think that drug abuse is not their problem. They have misunderstanding that drug users belong to a part of society different from their own or that drug abuse is far from their environment. They are wrong. Approximately three quarters of drug users are employed. A majority of Americans believe that drug use and drug-related crime are among our nation’s most pressing social problems. About 45 percent of Americans know someone with a substance abuse problem (Bray, 1995). In this paper we will consider information about trends in the first use of drugs and sociodemographic characteristics of those who use drugs.
Trends in the Incidence of Drug Use in the United States provide data on drug use established on the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) and older studies (Drug Use Trends). The drugs examined comprise alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, and nonmedical use of stimulants, analgesics, tranquilizers, and sedatives. The most thorough source of information on the prevalence of drug use and related behaviours in America is the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) (Bray, 1995).
The survey has been conducted at 1 to 3 -year intervals of a representative sample of the people aged 12 and over. The 1971 and 1972 surveys, conducted under the guidance of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, chiefly addressed marijuana use. The responsibility for the management of the survey was moved to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) at its creation in 1974, and then to the newly created Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at its formation in October 1992 (Bray, 1995).
The survey currently yields prevalence evaluations on the following classifications of drugs: alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens, and heroin. The survey combines the US population aged 12 and over. The NHSDA gets its estimates from a national probability sample of households in the co terminus USA (Alaska and Hawaii were annexed to the sampling frame in 1991). The household population comprises more than 98% of the US population (Drug Use Trends). Transient populations such as the shelterless and people living in institutionalised group quarters such as military caserns and prisons have historically been excluded.
Starting in 1991, non-institutional group quarters were added to the sampling frame so that people dwelling in rooming houses and college dormitories were comprised. Youth have traditionally been oversampled, and black people and Hispanics have been oversampled since 1985 to permit for increased accuracy in the estimates of drug use among these population subgroups (Harrison & Gfroerer, 1992). The size of the survey has expanded with each survey administration; however, the largest growth in the sample size occurred between 1990 and 1991, when the quantity of respondents increased from 9259 to 32 628 (Harrison, 1995).
The sample size was increased by legislation so as to increase the exactness of estimates for rarely used drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and to augment the precision of drug use prevalence rates for specified demographic subgroups. The survey has been controlled annually since 1990, with sample sizes near 30 000. In 1993 37. 2% of the population aged 12 and over reported at least one occasion of illegal drug use in their lifetime, with 11. 8% reporting some use in the last year and 5. 6% in the last month (Bray, 1995). The most often used illicit drug was cannabis, with 33.
7% lifetime prevalence, 9. 0% past year prevalence and 4. 3% past month prevalence. The non-medical use of psychotherapeutic drugs was reported by 11. 1 % of the people. Near 3. 8% had used a psychotherapeutic drug for other than medical purposes in the past year, and 1. 3% reported use in the past month. The lifetime prevalence rate for cocaine was 11. 3%, with annual prevalence at 2. 2% and prevalence in the past month at 0. 6%. Alcohol and tobacco were used at much higher rates than any of the illegal drugs. Near 83. 6% of the people reported drinking alcohol in their lifetime; 66.
5% had drunk in the past year and 49. 6% in the past month. Approximately 71. 2% of the population had smoked cigarettes in their life time, with 29. 4% reporting smoking in the past year and 24. 2% in the past month (National Survey Results on Drug Use). As drug use is highly connected with age, the NHSDA presents estimates of drug use by age ranges for youth (ages 12-17), young adults (ages 18-25), middle adults (ages 26-34) and older adults (ages 35 and over). The highest prevalence rates are established among young adults, followed by middle adults. In 1995, 10.
9 percent of all youth between twelve and seventeen years of age used illicit drugs in a past month. This rate has grown substantially compared to 8. 2 percent in 1994, 5. 7 percent in 1993, and 5. 3 percent in 1992 – the historic low in the trend since the 1979 high of 16. 3 percent. The University of Michigan’s 1996 Monitoring the Future study discovered that more than half of all high school students use illicit drugs by the time they graduate (National Household Survey on Drug Abuse). Cocaine use is not predominant among young people. In 1996, almost 2 percent of twelfth graders were current cocaine users (Bray, 1995).
While this number was up from a low of 1. 4 percent in 1992, it was still 70 percent lower than the 6. 7 percent high in 1985. Among twelfth graders in 1996, 7. 1 percent had ever strived cocaine – up from the 1992 low of 6. 1 percent but much lower than the 1985 high of 17. 3 percent. Nevertheless, during the last five years, lifetime use of cocaine has almost doubled among eighth graders, achieving 4. 5 percent in 1996. Alike trend is seen in the 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, which presented a decline in the mean age for first use of cocaine from 23.
3 in 1990 to nineteen in 1994 (National Household Survey on Drug Abuse). Heroin use is also not rife among young people. The 1996 Monitoring The Future study discovered that 1 percent of twelfth graders had used heroin in the past year, and half of 1 percent had done so during the last thirty days. Encouragingly, both numbers were lower than the 1995 findings. However, the 1996 survey exhibited that the figure of youths who ever used heroin doubled between 1991 and 1996 among eighth and twelfth graders, reaching 2. 4 percent and 1. 8 percent respectively (Drug Use Trends).
Marijuana use persists to be a major problem among the nation’s young people. Approximately one in four high school seniors used marijuana in 1996 while less than 10 percent used any other illicit drug with the same frequency. During the past year, nearly twice as many seniors used marijuana as any other illicit drug. Marijuana also accounts for most of the growth in illicit drug use among youths aged twelve to seventeen. Between 1994 and 1995, the rate of marijuana use among this age-group grew from 6 percent to 8. 2 percent. Moreover, adolescents are beginning to smoke marijuana at a younger age.
The mean age of first use fell from 17. 8 years in 1987 to 16. 3 years in 1994 (Drug Use Trends). Alcohol is the drug most frequently used by young people. Almost one in four tenth grade students and one third of twelfth graders report having had five or more drinks on at least one occasion during two weeks of the survey. The average age of first drinking has fell to 15. 9 years, down from 1987’s average of 17. 4 years (National Survey Results on Drug Use). Despite a drop in adult smoking, American youth continue to use tobacco products at increasing rates.
In 1996, more than a third of high school seniors smoked cigarettes, and more than one in five did so everyday. These percentages are bigger than at any time since the 1970s. Higher rates of illicit drug use are discovered in the larger metropolises and their suburbs. Overall rates of illicit drug use were the biggest in the West. Other subgroup diversities show males reporting higher usage rates for most illicit drugs than females. The unemployed show higher illicit drug use rates than the employed. College graduates report the highest rates of lifetime drug use, but the lowest rates of last month drug use.
Overall rates of illicit drug use increased in the USA sometime around 1979, and have since been decreasing (Drug Use Trends). However, the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, a nationally representative survey of high school seniors and young adults, also presents a peaking in rates of drug use within the same time. High school seniors were chosen as the focus of study because high school marks the passage from youth to adulthood. Among young adults, alcohol cannabis, cocaine, and the summary measure of an illicit drug use all peaked near 1979 (Emergency Department Trends).
Although the rates of use are lower for other age groups, the trend is very similar, although the biggest increases and decreases occurred among young adults. This means that the downward trend in drug use is secular occurring across the whole age spectrum at the same time. In 2001, an evaluated 0. 7% of the population age 12 and older reported using cocaine, combining crack, at least once in the past month. Such use increased in 1979 for 18- to 25-year-olds at 9. 9%; in 1982 for 12- to 17-year-olds at 1. 9%; and in 1985 for 26- to 34-year-olds at 6. 3% (Drug Use Trends).
Between 1991 and 2001, the use of most major drug types peaked among 8th and 10th graders. After 6 years of increases, 8th graders’ past month marijuana use began to fall in 1997, decreasing to 10. 2%. This decline went on through 2001 to 9. 2%. The use of inhalants declined after increasing 1995 (Epidemiologic Trends in Drug Abuse). Survey presented that drug use by State prison inmates in the month before their offense dropped from 56% in 1986 to 50% in 1991. However, between 1991 and 1997 the percentage of State prisoners who reported using drugs in the month before their offense rose from 50% in 1991 to 57% in 1997.
Drug use at the time of offense for State prison inmates fell from 36% in 1986 to 31% in 1991. This percentage rose from 31% in 1991 to 33% in 1997 (National Survey Results on Drug Use). While drug use and its consequences threaten Americans of every socio-economic background, geographic region, educational level, and ethnic and racial identity, the influences of drug use are often felt disproportionally. Our challenge is to reverse these negative trends and make a commitment to reducing drug abuse. References Bray, R. M. (1995). Department of Defence Survey of Health-Related Behavior Among Military Personnel.
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