Drug use among America’s youth is dropping, but it’s booming among people over 50, a U.S. government survey released Wednesday shows.
Last year, the rate of illicit drug use among children and teenagers 12 to 17 years old dropped to 9.5 percent, down from 11.6 percent a decade earlier, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) latest national survey.
Meanwhile, illicit drug use among adults 50 to 64 years old has increased in the past decade.
Specifically, illicit drug use among adults 50 to 54 has more than doubled since 2002, reaching 7.2 percent last year. For people 55 to 59, such drug use has more than tripled, reaching 6.6 percent last year.
Marijuana is by far the most-used illicit drug among both children and adults, according to SAMHSA, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.
At a press conference Wednesday in Washington, officials expressed particular concern about use by those 12 to 17 years old.
“There’s no question that marijuana is harmful to the developing brains of adolescents,” said SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde, adding that marijuana use has been linked to “significant I.Q. declines.”
As for young adults – those 18 to 25 years old – rates of illicit drug use have remained somewhat steady over recent years, with a slight increase in marijuana use, according to the survey.
Illicit drug use among children had remained steady at 10.1 percent from 2009 to 2011, which was a slight increase from years before. Overall, though, use for that age group has dropped in the past decade.
The data was released at the start of September to help kick off National Recovery Month, a government-sponsored promotion of preventing and treating substance abuse and mental health disorders.
“Recovery Month reminds us that the work we do to promote and support recovery has lasting, positive impact on so many individuals, families and communities,” said H. Westley Clark, the director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “It also reminds us that while we have made great strides, there is still much for us to do.”