September 4, 2008 / 4:19 AM / 10 years ago

Prescription drug abuse seen up, cocaine down

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More young adults abused prescription pain drugs last year but their use of cocaine and methamphetamines fell, while illicit drug use by baby boomers in their late fifties soared, a U.S. agency said on Thursday.

An anti-narcotics worker displays bags containing cocaine before their incineration in Lima July 2, 2008. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

The report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration cited said illicit drug use among those aged 55 to 59 more than doubled, to 4.1 percent in 2007 from the previous year.

The government’s annual report assessing illicit drug use in the United States offered a mixed picture.

It found that 4.6 percent of men and women ages 18 to 25 reported use of prescription pain drugs for nonmedical reasons in 2007, a 12 percent rise from the previous year, continuing the rising trend of recent years.

About 1.7 percent in this age group used cocaine in 2007, a 23 percent drop from 2006, while 0.4 percent of young adults reported using methamphetamines, down by about a third.

The survey results were based on interviews with about 67,500 people nationwide.

The report found that an estimated 19.9 million Americans ages 12 or older used illicit drugs in the month before responding to the survey, accounting for 8 percent of that population, compares to 8.3 percent in 2006.

Illicit drugs included marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants and prescription drugs used for nonmedical purposes.

Marijuana was the most common, with an estimated 14.4 million users. The report estimated that 5.8 percent of Americans were marijuana users in 2007, compared to 6 percent in 2006. There were an estimated 2.1 million cocaine users.

Illicit drug use remained stable among adolescents (ages 12 to 17) last year, the report said, but rates declined between 2002 and 2007, from 11.6 percent to 9.5 percent.

The report also said an estimated 24.3 million Americans ages 18 and up experienced serious psychological distress over the past year, and 16.5 million Americans had suffered at least one major depressive episode.

Reporting by Will Dunham, editing by Alan Elsner

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