Pubdate: Sat, 06 Sep 2003
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2003 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Cheryl Wetzstein
Cited: the SAMHSA survey


Around 22 million Americans were addicted to alcohol or drugs last
year, according to a federal survey designed to capture more accurate
data about substance abuse.

More than 9 percent of the population aged 12 and older has a serious
substance-abuse problem, Charles G. Curie, administrator of the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA),
said at a press conference yesterday.

The most common addiction  with 14.9 million people  was alcohol.
Another 3.9 million people were addicted to illegal drugs and the
remainder were addicted to both drugs and alcohol, SAMHSA said in its
new National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The survey collected data from 68,126 persons in their homes and some
who live in homeless shelters. The new findings are more accurate than
the old "household survey" on drugs owing to better collection
techniques, quality control and incentive payments to respondents, Mr.
Curie said.

In most categories, he said, the new survey sets a baseline and cannot
be compared to data from previous surveys. However, in two areas
first-time use and lifetime use  trends can be identified.

For instance, around 2.6 million people tried marijuana for the first
time in 2001, which is comparable to the number of new users each year
since 1996. First-time cocaine users numbered 1.5 million in 2001,
which is about the same since 1999.

As of 2002, around 21 percent of teens and 54 percent of young people
aged 18 to 25 said they had used marijuana at least once. This is also
about the same as 2000 and 2001 data.

Marijuana remains the most commonly used illegal drug, with 14.6
million users, the survey found. There were also 2 million people who
used cocaine and 1.2 million who used hallucinogens, including the
club drug Ecstasy. Of those people with a certifiable drug or alcohol
addiction, around 3.5 million received treatment between 2001 and 2002.

However, many addicts didn't receive treatment, either because they
didn't believe they needed treatment or because treatment was
unavailable. Neither of these scenarios is acceptable, federal
officials said.

Americans need a better understanding of the addictive nature of drugs
and alcohol, and family and friends shouldn't always presume their
loved ones are "all right," said John Walters, director of the White
House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Getting people into
treatment can save lives, he said.

He and other officials urged Congress to allocate $600 million to the
administration's "Access to Recovery Initiative," which would open
treatment slots to 300,000 people.

"There is no other medical condition for which we would tolerate such
huge numbers unable to obtain the treatment they need," Health and
Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said.

Earlier this week, another survey of teens showed that drug use has
persisted at a rate of around 24 percent for the last five years.

"The question is how much teen-age drug use is acceptable to the
nation," said Thomas J. Gleaton, author of the Pride Survey, which
collected data on 14,182 students in grades 6 to 12. "If one in four
teens using drugs is acceptable, we have done well in controlling
drugs over the past decade," he said. If not, "we need stronger action
to truly dent teen problems." 
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