Far fewer new heroin users, but meth use is up

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Jayne O’Don­nell and Terry DeMio

Far fewer peo­ple in the United States started us­ing heroin last year, but the de­cline among new 18- to 25year-old heroin users was al­most im­per­cep­ti­ble – and that age group saw a big jump in metham­phetamine and mar­i­juana use, a new sur­vey finds.

The 2017 Na­tional Sur­vey on Drug Use and Health em­pha­sizes what it calls these “tran­si­tional aged youth” be­cause they have higher rates of cig­a­rette use, al­co­hol abuse and heroin use dis­or­der, and they use more co­caine, meth and LSD than peo­ple both younger and older.

The re­port, re­leased by the Sub­stance Abuse and Men­tal Health Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion on Fri­day, showed one pos­i­tive change among 18- to 25year-olds: They’re mis­us­ing pre­scrip­tion opi­oids less.

In 2015, SAMHSA es­ti­mated 8.5 per­cent of peo­ple in that age range mis­used pre­scrip­tion opi­oids; that dropped to just over 7 per­cent in 2017.

The re­port helps gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, re­searchers and care­givers un­der­stand the ex­tent of sub­stance use and men­tal ill­ness among dif­fer­ent age groups na­tion­ally, by state and in more lo­cal ar­eas. It also helps them gauge the need for treat­ment ser­vices and guide pol­icy de­ci­sions, said SAMHSA as­sis­tant sec­re­tary Eli­nore McCance-Katz, a psy­chi­a­trist.

There was more alarm­ing news. Use of il­le­gal drugs, in­clud­ing co­caine, mar­i­juana and opi­oids, by preg­nant women in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly be­tween 2015 and 2017. About 7 per­cent of preg­nant women re­ported us­ing mar­i­juana.

McCance-Katz said mar­i­juana use is linked to fe­tal growth prob­lems, preterm births, still­births, hyper­ac­tiv­ity and im­paired cog­ni­tion in new­borns.

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