New U.S. drug survey: Marijuana and heroin increasing

Cody Park exhales a cloud of marijuana smoke after taking a hit on a bong at the first day of Hempfest, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, in Seattle. Thousands packed the Seattle waterfront park for the opening of a three-day marijuana festival ? an event that is part party, part protest and part victory celebration after the legalization of pot in Washington and Colorado last fall. Hempfest was expected to draw as many as 85,000 people per day. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Elaine Thompson/AP

A new government survey of drug use finds marijuana continues to be the illicit drug of choice among American teens and adults.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) surveyed 70,000 Americans aged 12 and older about their drug use during 2012. They found increased rates of marijuana and heroin use over past surveys.

"These statistics represent real people, families and communities dealing with the devastating consequences of abuse and addiction," SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a statement. "We must strive to prevent further abuse and provide the hope of treatment and recovery to all people needing help."

Marijuana continued its run of being the most commonly used illicit drug, according to SAMHSA, with 7.3 percent of Americans over 12 reported using pot last year. That's up from7 percent from the 2011 surveyand and 5.8 percent in 2007.

Daily or almost daily marijuana use increased from 5.1 million Americans in 2007 to 7.6 million in 2012.

Also increasing was past-month, or current, marijuana use for almost all age groups except among those aged 12 to 17, where it fell from 7.9 percent of teens in 2011 to 7.2. percent for the latest survey.

"These findings show that while we have made progress in preventing some aspects of substance abuse," said Hyde.

Marijuana use has been linked to negative effects on developing brains, including a study that found drops in IQ among those dependent on pot by 18. However, a Jan. 2013 study challenged that link.

The marijuana survey results come about a week after the U.S. government announced that it does not plan to sue Colorado and Washington to stop the states from allowing recreational marijuana use. Colo. and Wash. were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use, following last November's elections.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana use: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State.

The survey also added more evidence to reports of rising heroin use in the United States.

Heroin use increased significantly, with 669,000 users in 2012, compared to 620,000 in 2011 and 373,000 users reported in 2007.

Reports of rising heroin use, especially among affluent middle-class teens, have increased in recent years in some suburbs, 48 Hours reported in May. Other heroin use has been linked to increases in addiction to opioid painkillers, as heroin may provide a cheaper alternative to pills.

"We must redouble our efforts to reduce and eliminate all forms of it throughout our nation," said Hyde.

As for Americans doing drugs for the first time, the largest number of recent drug initiates were for marijuana (2.4 million people), nonmedical use of prescription painkillers (1.9 million), nonmedical use of tranquilizers (1.4 million), Ecstasy, or MDMA (0.9 million), followed by stimulants, cocaine and inhalants (between 0.6 million and 0.7 million).

Ecstasy has been in the recent spotlight following two recent deaths at the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City. The deaths were linked to a more pure and potent form of Ecstasy called "molly."

"They will often mix ecstasy with other drugs, especially at parties, like alcohol and marijuana," addiction specialist Dr. Damon Raskin, told theCBS Evening Newslast week. "I think that the combination of these drugs makes them all the more toxic."

Overall, illicit drug use remained stable from the 2011 survey results: About 24 million Americans older than 12 said they were current drug users in 2012, about 9.2. percent of the U.S. teen and adult population.

The full report, which was published Sept. 4, can be accessed on the SAMHSA website.

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