What Does the Future Hold for Drug Use and Addiction in the United States?

The world we live in is constantly changing. In the last 50 years, we have seen incredible changes in technology, transportation and communication, but we have also seen drastic changes in the drug landscape.

As parents, teachers and counselors, we can educate ourselves about new drug trends so we can spot the warning signs of use, abuse, and addiction. We’ve organized some important information regarding the future of drug addiction in the U.S. and the future of drug addiction treatment overall.

Nationwide Drug Use Trends

In June 2015, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released a report outlining nationwide drug use trends. These trends included:

  • In 2002, 8.3 percent of the population reported having used illicit drugs in the last month. In 2013, these numbers increased to 9.4 percent of the population. The majority of the spike is attributed to a significant increase in marijuana use, which has become the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.
  • More than 54 percent of first-time illicit drug users were under 18 years of age, and 70.3 percent of first-time users began with marijuana.
  • Even though teens and young adults reported the highest drug use, drug use rates in older adults have been increasing each year. This is attributed to the aging of baby boomers who have had higher drug use rates when compared to other generations.

Still, illicit drug use among high-school students and youth continues to decline from 34.1 percent — when illicit drug use peaked in 1997 — to 27.2 percent in 2014.

Emerging Drug Use Trends

The rising popularity of “designer drugs” has brought new risks and concerns to the forefront of drug use research. An August 2015 report released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse outlined emerging drug use trends.

These trends include:

  • In 2013, only 4 percent of drug overdose deaths in Maryland were attributed to Fentanyl, which is an opioid drug with a 30 to 50 times greater potency than heroin. In 2015, Fentanyl was reported to have been the cause of 25 percent of drug overdose deaths in Maryland.
  • Synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as “designer drugs,” are responsible for increasing overdoses in several states. These drugs include K2 and Spice, are legal and were responsible for over 160 hospitalizations over the course of two weeks in April 2015. Additionally, new synthetic cannabinoids known as “Cloud 9” and “Mojo” have become popular in 2015.
  • A new cathinone drug, which has been nicknamed “bath salts” — otherwise known as alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone or “Flakka” — has been spreading in Florida, and is beginning to appear in other parts of the country.

Future of Drug Use Policy and Addiction Treatment in the U.S.

When it comes to the future of drug use policy, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration predicts that big changes will occur as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which provides new insurance options to individuals struggling with mental health or drug abuse-related disorders.

Additionally, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2013 requires insurance companies that offer mental health and addiction treatment to offer services that are financially equivalent to their medical services.

In the future, drug addiction treatment in the U.S. is expected to be more readily available and offer more specialized services to individuals struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders. Educating yourself on the future of drug use and addiction treatment is the first step to helping a loved one who is struggling with substance abuse. Contact 12 Keys to learn more about how you can support someone battling a drug addiction.

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