October / November 2015

Trends in drug and alcohol use and abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) conducts an annual national survey on substance use, abuse and dependence among Americans 12 years old and older, asking about whether respondents ever rused specific substances in their lifetime, over the past year and over the past month. The following information comes from the revised June 2015 report based on a survey of approximately 67,800 people in 2013.

Increased use of marijuana: Illegal drug use has been increasing with 9.4 percent of the population having used an illegal drug in the last month in 2013 compared to 8.3 percent in 2002. The increase is largely due to an increase in the use of marijuana which is now readily available by prescription in many states (including California) and is legal in four states. Several more states will likely legalize marijuana over the next few years.

The popularity of “vape pens” has helped increase the use of marijuana and made the drug more dangerous in some ways. With vape pens, the potency of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient (THC) is much higher. Some vape pens deliver 70% doses compared to smoked marijuana, which range from 7 to 30 percent potency.

Prescription and other drugs: While marijuana use has increased steadily since 2007, rising by almost 2% to 19.8 million users in 2013, use of most other drugs has stabilized over the past decade or declined. Prescription drugs, including pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives, were used by 6.5 million Americans in the last month. Drug overdoses from opiates (obtained illegally and legally) have increased over the last 15 years. Cocaine use has gone down in the last few years while illegal methamphetamine use and illegal prescription drug use (mostly opiates) has increased. Methamphetamine use increased from 353,000 current users in 2010 to 595,000 in 2013.

Getting started: More than half of all new illegal drug users begin with marijuana and most people use drugs for the first time when they are teenagers. Fifty four percent of new drug users in 2013 were under 18 years old. However, underage drinking (ages 12-20) has declined from 28.8 to 22.7 percent between 2002 and 2013 as did binge drinking and heavy drinking. Driving under the influence among licensed drivers has also decreased.

Who’s partaking: Drug use is highest among people in their late teens and early twenties, although it is increasing in baby boomers (in their 50’s and 60’s) whose rates of illegal drug use have historically been higher than those of previous generations.

The trends: The popularity of certain drugs varies as trends change. What does not change is the overall picture in which over 10% of the American population is dealing with a drug or alcohol problem at any time.

The Teamsters Assistance Program (TAP) is a service to participating Trust Funds that helps members and their families deal with problems associated with substance abuse. If you know anyone who has a drug or alcohol problem or a family member who is impacted by a loved one’s addiction, please have them call TAP for confidential assistance at (510) 562-3600.

TAP Holiday Party

The Teamsters Assistance Program’s Annual Holiday Party will be on December 12, 2015 from 11 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Piedmont Veterans Memorial Building (Red Suite), 401 Highland Avenue, Piedmont.

Celebrate a sober Holiday Season with the TAP staff, treatment providers, family and friends. Enjoy a holiday lunch, raffle, and activities for kids. For questions, call TAP @ 510.562.3600.