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Illegal Drug Use at Nearly 10 Year High

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on September 16, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The annual report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that illegal drug use is at a ten year high. The report, which covers the transition year that President Obama took office, noted that 21.8 million Americans (age twelve and older) admitted to some type of illegal drug use in 2009, a nine percent increase from last year.

According to MSNBC, the rise can be attributed to the, "sharp increase in marijuana use and a surge in ecstasy and methamphetamine use ... and eroding attitudes about the perception of harm and the growing number of states approving medical marijuana." The report also found that marijuana remains the most popular drug, with use and abuse rising 8% in the past year.

On a positive note, cocaine and tobacco use have both steadily declined in the last few years, and 2009 was no exception to the trend. Overall, the most alarming aspect of the study concerned the increase in adolescent drug abuse. 21% of young adults experimented with some type of illegal drug use (predominately marijuana) during the past year, and less than half of those polled believed that marijuana was harmful.

The rather timely report comes just before the state of California is set to vote on the legalization of marijuana in November. National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske is quoted concerning the government's drug control strategy: "We have had a focus of a criminal justice lens on drug abuse for quite a while. It should be a blend that includes prevention and education. If we approach it with the same level of complexity that we approach things like cancer, I think we're better telling the American public, here's a bumper sticker to solve your problem." The shift from pure enforcement to education and prevention is an approach that would likely have the biggest impact on young abusers, as prevention programs such as D.A.R.E and commercials have been a successful deterrent in the past.

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