Fewer people are using heroin, says report full of horrible news
The number of new heroin users decreased by nearly 90,000 from 2016 to 2017, and fewer young adults are misusing prescription opioids.
But the overall findings of the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show illegal drug use remains a pervasive issue among all age groups.
In 2017, according to the report released Friday, 30.5 million people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug over the past month. That corresponds to about 1 in 9 Americans, or 11.2 percent.
"That's a scary number," said Ezra Helfand, executive director of the Wellspring Center for Prevention in East Brunswick.
Recent illicit drug use posted a rate of 10.6 percent in 2016 and 10.1 percent in 2015.
Among the 2017 users of illicit drugs, 26 million were current marijuana users and another 3.2 million were misusers of prescription pain relievers. Smaller numbers cited the recent use of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs.
The incidence of meth and cocaine use climbed in the 18-to-25 age group.
The percentage of people aged 12 and older who were using marijuana in 2017 was higher than the percentages in every year from 2002 to 2016, the report said.
The number of new heroin users decreased from 170,000 in 2016 to 81,000 in 2017, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the movement that's needed to make a dent in the number of lives lost to the opioid epidemic, Helfand said.
"The number of people affected by it is still increasing; the number of people who have died from the direct use of opiates has increased," he said.
The state's real-time tracking initiative suspects more than 2,000 overdose deaths so far in 2018, through September 9. The final tally should easily top the 2016 fatal overdose count of 2,221 — most of which were caused by opioids.