17 Key Takeaways From the National Survey on Drug Use and Health

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As the United States continues to struggle with the opioid epidemic, new figures have been released that highlight the seriousness of substance misuse throughout the country and the need for further addiction treatment resources.

Each year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducts a 12-month study of Americans across all 50 states and Washington D.C. Roughly 67,500 Americans ages 12 or older are interviewed, and the data is released to the public the following September.

The 2016 NSDUH revealed that there was a significant increase in opioid overdose deaths, primarily caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The survey found an increase in serious mental illness among youths of transitional age. There was also an increase in heroin use among Americans and major gaps in the availability of appropriate treatment for those with substance use disorders.

In 2018, SAMHSA launched its response to these findings with several programs. It established a clinical support system for serious mental illness. It created new addiction prevention and awareness programs through a national system of Technology Transfer Centers. The agency also simplified the grant application process for communities and increased the number of certified behavioral healthcare clinics.

The results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) are now available, and here are some of the key takeaways.

Alcohol Use Findings

1. The first use of alcohol among people ages 12–17 is roughly the same as last year, at 2.3 million Americans. The rates are up, however, among groups ages 18–25, going from 2.2 million in the prior two years to 2.4 million in 2017.

2. Rates of alcohol use disorders have declined across all age groups when compared with the 2016 results. This is particularly the case in the youths ages 12–17, going from 2.5 percent to 1.8 percent of the population.

Illicit Drug Use Findings

3. Among illicit substances, marijuana is the most widely used drug nationwide, with an estimated 40.9 million users, or 15 percent of the population. This is followed by psychotherapeutic drugs (6.6 percent), cocaine (2.2 percent) and hallucinogens (1.9 percent).

Opioid Misuse Findings

4. Even though opioid overdose deaths are rising, there has been a significant decrease since 2015 in the number of people who are misusing opioids. In 2015, there were 12.7 million people who misused opioids, and this figure dropped to 11.4 million in 2017.

5. According to the latest NSDUH, 97.2 percent of opioid misusers are using prescription pain relievers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. An additional 7.8 percent use heroin, and 4.9 percent say they use both.

6. Across the board, the number of people who misuse prescription pain relievers is down over the past two years. Among age groups, the numbers dropped from 3.9 percent of the population to 3.1 percent among 12–17-year-olds, and 8.5 percent to 7.2 percent among 18–25-year-olds.

7. Among people who reported misusing prescription pain relievers, over half (53.1 percent) claimed they bought from, stole from or were given the drugs by someone they knew. Others (34.6 percent) received them from a single prescriber.

8. Buprenorphine has the highest rate of prescription opioid misuse (31.7 percent). This was followed by methadone (19.5 percent) and oxycodone (14 percent).

9. While the number of people trying heroin for the first time in 2017 plummeted, the number of people who reported having a heroin use disorder increased. Heroin initiates went from 170,000 in 2016 to just 81,000 in 2017. But the number of people with a heroin use disorder jumped from 626,000 to 652,000 over the same period.

10. Heroin-related deaths continue to increase. In 2015, there were 13,101 deaths linked to heroin, and this number was 15,594 in 2017.

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If you have a substance use disorder, you can turn to a qualified addiction treatment program for help.

Marijuana Use Findings

11. Marijuana use continues to climb among nearly all age groups, except youth. Use declined among youth ages 12–17, from 7 percent of the population to 6.5 percent over the past two years. Among young adults ages 18–25, marijuana use was up from 6.9 million users in 2015 to 7.6 million in 2017. There was a similar increase among adults ages 26 or older, from 13.6 million in 2015 to 16.8 million in 2017.

12. Among young adults, there were greater increases in marijuana use among women than men. Of serious concern is the increase in marijuana use among pregnant women, which has gone from 78,000 in 2015 to 161,000 in 2017.

Serious Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Disorders

13. About 25 percent of people in the study (46.6 million estimated Americans 18 or older) had a serious mental illness. Just over half of these (57.4 percent) received any type of treatment, which is higher than the 50.7 percent rate in 2015.

14. Among young adults (ages 18–25), the instances of major depressive episodes are increasing. The rate was 3.6 million in 2015, and it was 4.4 million in 2017.

15. Among people who have a mental illness, co-occurring substance misuse is common.

The Need for Substance Use Disorder Treatment

16. The latest survey determined that 7.6 percent of the population, or 18.7 million people, have a substance use disorder. Of those, 36.4 percent deal with illicit drugs, 75.2 percent grapple with alcohol use and 11.5 percent deal with both. About 18.5 million people have both a substance use disorder and a mental illness.

17. Treatment gaps remain a major issue. Of those with only a substance use disorder, 92.3 percent received no treatment. Among people with any type of mental illness, 57.4 percent did not receive treatment. Of those with a co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder, 91.7 percent went without treatment to address both issues.

While these statistics are alarming, many point out that some slight progress has been made over the past several years to address this nation’s opioid epidemic and to provide help to those in need of treatment. If you feel that you may have a substance use disorder, contact the Orlando Recovery Center now to learn more about our addiction treatment programs.