Fewer U.S. Teens Using Illegal Drugs and Alcohol, Report Finds

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TUESDAY, Sept. 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Illegal drug use among teens in the United States is on the decline, according to a new federal report.

Encouragingly, the new study also found that alcohol use, binge drinking and the use of tobacco products among young people between the ages of 12 and 17 also dropped between 2002 and 2013.

The annual survey of 70,000 people aged 12 and older across the United States revealed that between 2002 and 2013, substance dependence or abuse problems among this age group also dropped from 8.9 percent to 5.2 percent.

Rates of drug abuse among young people between 12 and 17 years old dropped from almost 12 percent in 2002 to 9.5 percent in 2012, the study from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found. In 2013, rates of illegal drug use among teens fell even further to just under 9 percent.

Alcohol use among young people between the ages of 12 and 17 dropped to 11.6 percent from almost 13 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, rates of binge drinking in the past month fell to about 6 percent from around 7 percent.

In 2013, about 11 percent of preteens and teens drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year, down from over 14 percent in 2002.

Use of tobacco products among 12- to 17-year-olds also fell from around 15 percent in 2002 to a new low of just under 8 percent in 2013, the study showed.

The SAMHSA reported noted however, that almost 25 million young people aged 12 and older are current illegal drug users, or they had used drugs within the past month. Marijuana is the drug most commonly used by teens. In 2013 alone, almost 20 million (7.5 percent of Americans aged 12 and older) were marijuana users -- a jump from about 6 percent in 2007.

Abuse of other drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and prescription painkillers, was relatively unchanged from 2012 to 2013, the researchers added.

"This report shows that we have made important progress in some key areas, but that we need to rejuvenate our efforts to promote prevention, treatment and recovery, to reach all aspects of our community," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release.

Many Americans who need treatment for a substance abuse disorder are not getting the help they need. The report revealed that in 2013, almost 23 million Americans aged 12 and older needed treatment for an alcohol or drug abuse problem, but only 2.5 million got help in a facility designed for the treatment of substance use disorders.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on teen alcohol and drug abuse.