Drug Use Trends and What to Watch For In 2014

drugs of abuse

In many ways, 2014 is shaping up to be a year that will to a large degree be shaped by drugs. The past many decades have seen major societal changes which had their source in drug use trends or which were largely influenced by drugs. The explosion of the youth culture and rock in the 1960s quickly fell under the sway of drugs including marijuana and psychedelics. Crack cocaine ravaged the inner cities in the 1980s and destroyed families and communities with results still being felt today. The enactment of harsh minimum mandatory sentencing laws for federal drug crimes in the 1980s led to an exponential increase in the incarceration rate, to the point where the United States now has the world’s largest prison population both in terms of percentage of the population and in absolute numbers. Like it or not, we live in a society which is greatly influenced by drugs, and the coming year looks to be a watershed in the history of America’s relationship with drugs.

Will Marijuana be Legalized in More States

Over the past several years, the list of states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes has expanded to more than 20. Many of these states, along with others where medical marijuana is not yet legal, have moved to decriminalize cannabis so that possession is no longer punishable by time in jail but is penalized on the same level as a traffic ticket. In the November elections of 2012, however, the states of Washington and Colorado voted to legalize the drug for recreational use. Residents of those two states can now purchase, possess and use small amounts of marijuana, provided that they do so in private and that they are over the age of 21 years. They may also grow a limited number of cannabis plants. In those states, pot is now essentially on the same level as alcohol from a legal standpoint.

On the first day of January 2014, the law went into effect which permits retail stores in Colorado to sell pot, and voters, law enforcement officials and legislators across the nation are intently watching to see what will happen. If public safety issues fail to materialize related to legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington, it is expected that other states will follow in their example and pass their own laws to legalize marijuana. Several other states are expected to vote on the issue this year, and a recent Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized.

Heroin Making a Comeback

heroin and opioids

In the past, heroin was a drug that was for the most part limited to the fringes of society. From Chinese laborers on the West Coast in the 1800s to junkies in the inner city in the middle and later part of the 20th century, heroin was simply not something that ever caught on as much as cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs did. Until recently. Although heroin remains a less popular drug than many others, the rate of its reported use is on the increase? Why is heroin making a comeback? The most important reason is simple to understand. Over the past several years, millions of Americans have gotten addicted to prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet. These medications are referred to as opioids because, like heroin, they are derived from opium.

As healthcare professionals, regulatory agencies, law enforcement and even Big Pharma have taken steps to limit the illegal supply of painkillers, the drugs have gotten harder to come by. Heroin is a natural replacement. It gets a user just as high, and in some cases more so, compared with painkillers. It is generally cheaper and is also typically easier to abuse since it does not require the crushing of pills. Heroin is no longer a drug only for the inner city but is spreading to the suburbs as it is adopted by painkiller addicts whose supply has dried up. Stemming the tide of heroin abuse is vital since this drug is commonly ranked as being the most dangerous and addictive drug available. Hopefully, this trend can be turned around, but it will take the active efforts of everyone to do so.


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AUTHOR

Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.