Marijuana Use Up, Prescription Drug Abuse Down According to Feds

On Monday, the federal government released the latest data on drug use and found some interesting changes. For the first time in several years, prescription drug abuse is down. Some attribute this to new state laws designed to monitor prescriptions and crack down on offenders. At the same time, marijuana use is up.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, who surveys over 67,000 people ages 12 and over. They ask them a variety of questions about their own drug use within the last year.

The survey found young adults largely caused the drop in prescription drug abuse, with the rate of those ages 18 to 25 using those drugs falling 14% to 1.7 million. 3.6% of young adults abused pain relievers in 2011; this marks the lowest rate in a decade.

Still, the number of people addicted to pain pills has grown since 2002, from 936,000 to 1.4 million in 2011. Though in 2011 the number who abused prescription drugs overall fell to 6.1 million from 7 million in 2010.

Officials believe the fall has to do with changing laws. Many states have created stiff penalties for people accused of prescription drug related crimes. They’ve also taken steps to crack down on “pill mills” and created databases to track prescriptions. All of this, and a growing awareness among the public is believed to play a role in the recent drop.

Marijuana use, however, is up, and attitudes about marijuana in general are relaxing. According to the survey, 54.6% of teens in 2007 believed marijuana was “risky”. In 2011, that number had fallen to just under 45%. White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowski blames the medical marijuana movement.

“Marijuana is still bad news,” he said. “I think they are getting a bad message on marijuana. I think that the message that it’s medicine and should be legalized is a bad message.” This despite the increasing acceptance and availability of medical marijuana on the state level.

Kerlikowske’s opinion is understandable. After all, any growing approval of marijuana is a potential blow to his drug war. Regardless of the risks and benefits, any growing acceptance of pot will threaten the failed policies of the expensive War on Drugs.

Whether you are accused of abusing prescription drugs or if you are caught with marijuana and charged with a crime, call to speak with an attorney who can help.

About David Matson

David writes about criminal justice issues.
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