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Substance abuse has been a serious challenge in the United States. Illicit drug use has been on the increase in recent times though a decreasing trend was generally observed from 1979 to the 1990s. There are some instances where illicit drugs are considered culturally acceptable, especially for medicinal and ritual purposes. Despite all these, substance abuse has led to many health and social problems in the U.S., mainly due to the addiction thereof. Some of the illicit drugs in question, in this case, include cocaine, marijuana, tranquilizers, and analgesics used for non-medical reasons, hallucinogens, and heroin, among others.
Substance Abuse in the United States
From 1999 through 2001, the number of individuals who were at least 12 years old and had used illicit drugs during the previous 30 days increased from 6.3% to 7.1%. Also notable is that the prevalence of substance abuse in the general population in the U.S. for persons aged 12 years and older was 14.1% compared to 7.1% in 2001. For persons aged 12 to 17 years old, the prevalence of substance abuse reported for the previous one year decreased from 24.3% in 1979 to 10.8% in 2001. It is, however, evident that as of 1993, illicit drug use had been on an increasing trend from 11.9% in 1993 to 20.8% in 2001.
Among individuals aged 18 to 25 years, substance abuse over the past year was 45.5% in 1979 and decreased to 24.2% by 1993 and then increased gradually to 31.9% by 2001. The prevalence of illicit drug use among persons aged 26 to 34 years was 23.0% for the past year as of 1979, and this decreased to 12.7% in 1998 and then increased to 16.1% by 2001. For persons aged 35 years and older, substance abuse in the past year has increased from 3.9% in 1979 to 6.3% in 2001 (ONDCP, 2006).
As of 2001, up to 0.7% of all persons aged 12 years and older used cocaine and crack in the previous month. This proportion was highest (9.9%) among persons aged 18 to 25 years in 1979. The use of marijuana was reported to be 5.4% in 2001 in the whole population aged 12 years and older. The highest rates were, however, recorded in 1979 for 12 to 34 years old persons. Despite a decrease in marijuana use from 1979 to 1998 in all age groups, the trend has been increasing gradually in all age groups but at least among 35 years and older individuals (ONDCP, 2006).
Despite the fact that illicit drugs are generally considered unacceptable in society due to the harms that they cause, there are cases where the same illicit drugs are considered culturally acceptable. For instance, marijuana is sometimes prescribed as a strong analgesic, especially in end-of-life care. Other pain relievers that are used for medicinal purposes, yet they are abused several, include hydrocodone, methadone, Vicodin, and oxycontin.
Tranquilizers and sedatives are also commonly used for psychotherapy purposes, with methamphetamine being a good example. In some cultures like Korea, alcohol is acceptable for ceremonial purposes. Elsewhere, especially among pre-industrial cultures, psychoactive drugs have been viewed as quasi-religiously acceptable (Grinspoon & Bakalar, n.d).
Drug abuse is associated with a myriad of health and social problems in the United States. Drug abuse contributes up to 82% of all health problems. For instance, tobacco is associated with cancer and heart diseases. Some drugs, such as ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines, are among drugs that trigger cardiovascular diseases. Drugs that are abused through injections have been associated with hepatitis C and AIDS, among other sexually transmitted illnesses. Among the most common social problems whose root cause is drugs include drug driving, especially alcohol related accidents, violence such as homicide and assault, stress among former addicts, and child abuse, both sexually and physically (NIDA, 2010). Homelessness and missed working days are also effects of drug abuse at the community level.
Grinspoon, L. and Bakalar, J. B. (n.d). Medical uses of illicit drugs. Web.
NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). (2010). Drug abuse and addiction: one of America’s most challenging public health problems. Web.
ONDCP. (2006). Drug use trends: October 2002. Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse. Fact Sheet. Web.