Popular Drugs By Demographic
Drug use is a growing problem in America and a concern that affects various demographics. In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2011, about 8.7 percent of Americans 12 years and older—22.5 million people—participated in illegal drug use. In 2002, this number was only 8.3 percent, proving that illicit drug use in the United States is on the rise. Recent data shows some interesting trends among drug use and popular drugs by demographic.
Teenagers—The Largest Group of Drug Users
Unfortunately, teenagers make up the largest group of drug users in the country. Every year, a survey called Monitoring the Future is conducted so that the National Institutes of Health can gain insight into current trends in drug use and related attitudes among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders nationwide. More than 45,000 students participated in the 2012 survey. Although 2012 saw a decrease in illegal drug use among young people overall, marijuana use has been on the rise for five years. Of high school seniors, 6.5 percent smoke marijuana on a daily basis, a figure up from 5.1 percent in 2007. In addition to affecting perception and good judgment, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has recently been found to negatively affect memory. Although less than half of twelfth graders consider regular use of marijuana to be harmful, about one of six teens is at risk of becoming addicted. The 2012 MTF survey also saw a decrease in the use of Vicodin among teenagers, although it remains at dangerously high levels. The use of Adderall, a prescription ADHD medication, is also on the rise among the teenage demographic. The abuse of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or spice, and the abuse of bath salts continue to be concerns among this age group.
These statistics are not surprising given that most people first try drugs in their teenage years. In fact, of more than three million new drug users in 2011 alone, more than half were under 18. While more than half of these users tried marijuana first, prescription pain relievers, inhalants, and tranquilizers were also quite popular among this demographic. Inhalant use was most prevalent among younger teens, a statistic that is not at all questionable considering how easy it is for people in this age group to access sharpies, hairspray, and bath salts.
Drug Use Among Young Adults
Drug use also continues to be high among young adults, aged 18 to 20; in 2011, an estimated 23.8 percent of people in this age group had used an illicit drug in the previous month. “Pharming” among young adults is popular, with prescription ADHD drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, and DXM often abused. While individuals may see these drugs as harmless because they help them focus, their long-term use can have serious debilitating effects.
Baby Boomers Drug Use
Despite this data, drug use is not only popular among adolescents and youth. The baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are now reaching their 50s and 60s, and drug use among Americans in this age group is on the rise. This is partially due to the baby boomers’ historically higher rates of illicit drug use compared to those of previous cohorts. In 2010, cocaine abuse among this demographic nearly quadrupled as it rose from 2.9 to 11.4 percent, while heroin abuse grew from 7.2 to 16 percent, more than doubling. Prescription drug abuse among older Americans has increased from 0.7 to 3.5 percent. However, marijuana use remains most popular among this group, perhaps for its hallucinogenic effects.
Drug Use Higher Among Men Than Women
In terms of popular drugs by the gender demographic, men continue to have a higher rate of drug use and abuse than women. However, the gender gap varies by drug, and while men are more likely to take performance-enhancing drugs, women are much more likely to take diet pills and “fat-burners.” Women are also more likely to use and abuse prescription medication, as seen in recent years with the rise of pregnant women and mothers abusing OxyContin.
Drug Use Among Ethnic Groups
While drug use by ethnicity is another topic in itself, the U.S. Census and other national surveys examine drug use in relation to four different racial groups: white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska native. While marijuana is still the highest abused drug, one statistic suggests that Native American teens are much more likely than teens of other races to abuse inhalants; this group has the highest rate of use in general. On the other hand, drug use among African-American and Asian teens is low, and it is moderate among whites, although no specific drugs for these groups have been reported on.
Given these statistics, it is important to understand that greater cultural elements are likely at play when it comes to the division of drug use and popular drugs by demographic. Accurate statistics on popular drugs by demographic remain vague, and understandably so-not everyone likes to report their illicit drug use. Nevertheless, it is evident that many different drugs are used by different demographics, with marijuana being the most popular drug in America in demographics across the board.
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