SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows the country has an upward climb in the battle against illicit drugs, especially among young adults.

The report revealed that 22.6 million Americans over 12 years old — or 8.9 percent of the population — used illicit drugs in 2010, an increase from the previous year’s 8.7 percent. Though it may seem like a minor jump, it reflects a startling jump from 2008, when that number was 8 percent. Another trend worrying SAMHSA is the rise in illicit drug use among Americans ages 18 to 25. The survey showed the percentage of Americans using drugs in this age group has risen from 19.6 percent in 2008 to 21.2 percent in 2009 and 21.5 percent in 2010. SAMHSA says the jump is thanks to an increase in use of marijuana in this demographic.

“We stand at a crossroads in our nation’s efforts to prevent substance abuse and addiction,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “These statistics represent real lives that are at risk from the harmful and sometimes devastating effects of illicit drug use. This nation cannot afford to risk losing more individuals, families and communities to illicit drugs or from other types of substance abuse — instead, we must do everything we can to effectively promote prevention, treatment and recovery programs across our country.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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