Drug abuse among young people declines in United States

ANN ARBOR, Mich. U.S. students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades are continuing to show a gradual decline in their use of certain drugs, including methamphetamine, according to the 34th annual national survey in the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future series released last week.

“These certainly are positive developments and the longer term decline in the use of methamphetamine, which continued this year in grade 12, is particularly important,” stated Lloyd Johnston, the study’s principal investigator. “The use of this highly addictive drug is now down by about two thirds among teens since 1999, when its use was first measured.”

There was also a decline in the number of teens abusing dextromethorphan, a popular cough suppressant, the survey found. While the annual prevalence rate was the same for 10th graders as in 2006, abuse among 8th and high school seniors had declined. Eighth graders’ prevalence fell by 0.6 percentage points to 3.2 percent and reported abuse among high school seniors’ dropped 1.3 percentage points to 5.7 percent. “It thus appears that attempts to discourage misuse of dextromethorphan have proven somewhat successful,” Johnston said, though there’s more work yet to be done.

Overall, according to the survey, 3.6, 5.3 and 5.5 percent of 8th, 10th and 12th graders, respectively, reported abusing over-the-counter cough medicines to get high.

“We are encouraged by this progress but remain steadfast in our efforts to reduce the number of teens abusing these medicines to get high,” stated Linda Suydam, president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. CHPA has developed a number of programs in recent years in an effort to address teen abuse of OTC medicines.

“CHPA and the leading makers of OTC cough medicines, along with our partners and experts in the substance abuse field, are engaged in a multi-pronged public health education campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of medicine abuse,” Suydam said. “The association’s initiatives include educational programming for parents, schools, pharmacists and retailers , law enforcement, health professionals, community leaders and online.”

“It’s encouraging to see that fewer 8th and 12th graders are abusing over-the-counter cough medicines since NIDA began tracking this issue in 2006,” said Gen. Arthur Dean, chairman and chief executive officer of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. “Cough medicine abuse is an issue that CADCA has worked diligently on over the past few years in collaboration with [CHPA], which represents the makers of these products, and I have no doubt that these reductions are a sign that our efforts are working.”

The survey is conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

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