According to a health survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, prescription drug abuse in America has declined among young people.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health collected data from interviews with more than 60,000 people 12-years-old and older. The number of young adults between the ages of 18 to 25, who habitually abuse prescription drugs, has dropped to 14 percent.
The survey reports in 2011, 6.1 million individuals abused narcotic pain killers such as tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives. The amount of people abusing pain medication declined from 2.1 percent in 2009 to 1.7 percent in 2011.
Although prescription-drug abuse has declined, nine percent of Americans as young as 12 report using illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants.
Cocaine abuse has declined from 2.4 million habitual users in 2006 to 1.4 million in 2011. Conversely, the amount of heroin abusers is on the rise. The number rose from 161,000 in 2007 to 281,000 in 2011.
Among illicit drug use marijuana remains the most commonly abused drug. In a prior study, researchers discovered 12.4 percent eighth and 10th graders have used marijuana the previous month.
According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, only 44.8 percent of youths believe smoking marijuana is dangerous. The number declined from 54.6 percent in 2007.
"I think they are getting a bad message on marijuana," he said to USA Today. "I think that the message that it's medicine and should be legalized is a bad message."
Drug reform experts such as Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates legalizing marijuana and treatment over incarceration, believe health experts should emphasize public health programs to curb drug use, as well as reduce overdose and the spread of HIV and hepatitis.