Meth Is Going Out of Fashion

By Ariel Nagi 09/09/11

But marijuana "medicine" has grown in appeal, particularly for young adults, finds a new national survey.

Endangered species? Photo via

Forced to choose between marijuana and crystal meth for a national favorite, "Just Say No" campaigners would probably opt grudgingly for the former. So they may see the National Survey on Drug Use and Health more as good news than bad. One in 10 Americans uses illegal drugs, with weed taking top spot. But the survey, which collected data from interviews with 67,500 randomly selected people aged 12 or older, shows that methamphetamine use—which has ravaged the US, particularly in the past decade—has fallen sharply. The number of past-month meth users fell from 731,000 in 2006 to 353,000 last year. This could be attributed to a national crackdown on the over-the-counter meds that can be used to cook up homemade meth. "We've seen better attention for law enforcement and policy changes. You can't get all the Sudafed you want anymore," said Peter Delany, director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at SAMHSA. On the other hand 6.9% of the population reported using marijuana regularly—up from 5.8% in 2007. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, 7.4% reported having used the drug in the past month, about the same as last year, and use among young adults aged 18-25 has climbed from 16.5% in 2008 to 18.5% in 2010. A total of 17.4 million people in the US regularly smoke pot. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the increase in cannabis use could be related to the fact that several states hopped on the medical marijuana train this past year. "People keep calling it medicine, and that's the wrong message for young people to hear," Kerlikowske told USA Today. Meanwhile about 40.6% of adults aged 18 to 25 binge-drank in 2010—about the same rate as the previous year.

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