Continuing the rising trend from earlier years, more young adults abused prescription pain drugs in 2007, while their use of other illicit drugs fell. A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that the ongoing prescription drug addiction and abuse epidemic among young Americans is far from over.
Despite the positive findings regarding other drugs, young adults ages 18 to 25 who abused prescription pain relievers rose 12 percent last year. Prescription drug addiction and abuse involving painkillers and other psychoactive drugs is the number one drug killer of young Americans -- more than heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and all the other typical illicit drugs combined.
The report also found that illicit drug abuse among baby boomers in their late fifties continued to soar, confirming predictions that older Americans are continuing their higher levels of substance abuse as they age. Baby boomers are those born during the post-World War II baby boom between 1946 and the early 1960s.
The number of Americans aged 55 to 59 abusing marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants and prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes more than doubled to 4.1 percent in 2007 over the previous year. The baby boomer figures have been further confirmed by the impact on drug detox and rehab facilities across the country, where older adults from all walks of life -- many of them well-to-do professionals -- continue to arrive for treatment for a wide range of prescription drug addiction and dependencies. Psychiatric drugs -- particularly antidepressants -- are among the most abused by people in older age groups, along with prescription pain killers like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and Lortab.
Drug Czar John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, commented on the soaring rates of prescription drug addiction and abuse. +Our efforts against methamphetamine, cocaine, and other illegal drugs are working,+ he said. +The markets for these poisons are shrinking, and the deadly grip they hold on the lives of individuals, families, and communities is being countered.
+But when it comes to prescription drugs, we cannot afford to re-live the painful experiences we've had with illegal drugs. We must act quickly to increase awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse, decrease the illegal diversion of these products, and shore up safer practices for their prescription and distribution.+
The only bright spot in the report about trends concerns kids aged 12 to 17, which showed a significant decline in overall past month illicit drug use from 11.6 percent in 2002 to 9.5 percent in 2007. But we're left with millions of kids still abusing all kinds of drugs, falling victim to prescription drug addiction, and many dying from drug interactions and overdoses.
The battle to reduce and eliminate prescription drug addiction among all ages of Americans is far from over. Meanwhile, the best weapon we have for those already dependent or addicted is +medical' drug detox, followed by comprehensive drug rehab when needed -- which is most of the time.