Drug Abuse Rising Among American Adults
> 1/3/2007 11:10:38 AM

Despite claims to the contrary by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, drug abuse in America is generally not on the decline, and the most dramatic increases in the use of illicit substances and related health problems have been among middle-aged adults. While most report first using illicit substances in their teens or early twenties, the most common age for death by overdose is now around 45. The ONDCP's recent press release reports a significant decline in drug abuse among American teens via nationwide survey, yet the number of arrests and deaths involving illegal drugs hit all time highs over the last two years. Considerable press time has been devoted to the scourge of methamphetamine production and addiction as well as the increased prevalence of prescription drug abuse among Americans young and old.

The main reason we've failed to take note of these discouraging trends, according to NYTimes op-ed contributor Mike Males of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, is that their victims do not fall under the 'usual suspects' umbrella: the group is increasingly composed of white, middle-aged, middle-class Americans. Reported abuse decreased slightly among urban minorities and teens, but hospital emergency rooms treated more than 400,000 patients between the ages of 35 and 64 for abusing illegal drugs in 2004 alone. Males argues that drug policy officials should stop relying on individual hand-out surveys and focus more on the demonstrable effects of abuse: drug-related deaths, emergencies, crimes and diseases:

A good model is the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs’ fledgling drug abuse index, which I helped compile and which aims to pinpoint which populations and areas are most harmed by drugs, both legal and illicit. Few experts would have suspected that the biggest contributors to California’s drug abuse, death and injury toll are educated, middle-aged women living in the Central Valley and rural areas, while the fastest-declining, lowest-risk populations are urban black and Latino teenagers. Yet the index found exactly that. These are the sorts of trends we need to understand if we are to design effective policies.

Mays's observations are valid, and almost all statistics report lower drug use among American teens, but the problem is not disappearing. It is merely changing with time. Far from declaring victory in the endless War on Drugs, we as Americans need to adjust our perspectives on the issue in order to combat the newest wave of drug abuse trends. And we will have to look far beyond the halls of our high schools.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy