Prescribed Drugs Top Abuse List

On September 9, 2004, a startling report titled, "2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health" was issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. The study was a good-news, bad-news scenario in that it showed that fewer American youths are using marijuana, LSD and Ecstasy, but more are abusing prescription drugs.

The report noted that more people had tried prescription pain relievers who did not need them for medical reasons. The most striking increase was a 15 percent rise in prescription drug abuse by people 18 to 25. In the broader population of 12 and over, the study showed that 5 percent more people took those drugs recreationally. There were 6.3 million people using prescription medications non-medically in 2003, about 2.7 percent of the population ages 12 or older. Of these, an estimated 4.7 million used prescription pain relievers; 1.8 million used tranquilizers; 1.2 million used stimulants, including methamphetamine; and 0.3 million used sedatives.

The study found that young people who were exposed to anti-drug messages outside school took notice -- with rates of current pot use 25 percent lower than those who did not get those messages. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson highlighted the good news by saying, "It is encouraging news that more American youths are getting the message that drugs are dangerous, including marijuana."

The study also noted that fewer youths were using marijuana, but alcohol abuse remains steady with no noticeable increase or decrease.