Far fewer new heroin users, but meth use is up
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.