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Drug Use Increasingly Common in All Countries

U.S. has one of the highest rates, international survey finds

TUESDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- The United States has one of the highest lifetime rates of tobacco and alcohol use and the highest percentage of people who reported using marijuana or cocaine at least once in their lives, a new survey shows.

Researchers from the World Health Organization analyzed alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug use in 17 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania.

Among the major findings:

  • The use of all types of drugs in the survey is becoming increasingly common in all the countries. Males were more likely than females to have used all drug types in all countries and all age groups.
  • Younger adults were more likely than older adults to have used these substances.
  • People with higher incomes were more likely to have used legal and illegal drugs.
  • Alcohol has been used by most survey respondents in the Americas, Europe, Japan and New Zealand, compared to smaller percentages of respondents in the Middle East, Africa and China.
  • Alcohol use by age 15 was far more common among Europeans than among those in the Middle East or Africa.
  • Lifetime tobacco use was most common in the United States (74 percent), Lebanon (67 percent), Mexico and the Ukraine (60 percent and 61 percent) and the Netherlands (58 percent).

The study is in the July 1 issue of PLoS Medicine.

"These findings add to our understanding of substance abuse worldwide and suggest that drug use is still a major problem in this country, pointing to the need for more effective prevention interventions," Dr. Elias Z. Zerhouni, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said in a prepared statement.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the NIH, provided some of the funding for the study.

"A survey of lifetime use does not provide the entire picture, however, because it does not reflect current use or trends over time," NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said in a prepared statement. "For example, although lifetime use of tobacco was reported by this study to be 74 percent in the U.S., current use has been documented at approximately 30 percent."

More information

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol and tobacco.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: National Institute on Drug Abuse, news release, June 30, 2008

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