US survey shows some progress in opioids fight

Figures from a US government survey released Friday show some progress in the fight against the opioid addiction crisis, with fewer people in 2017 using heroin for the first time compared with the previous year.

The number of new users of heroin decreased from 170,000 in 2016 to 81,000 in 2017, a one-year drop that would need to be sustained for years to reduce the number of fatal overdoses, experts said.

Fewer Americans are misusing or addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. And more people are getting treatment for heroin and opioid addiction, the survey found.

The Trump administration said the positive trends show government efforts are working.


Among the other findings:

■  Marijuana use climbed in all age groups except young teenagers, with 2.5 percent of those 26 and older, or 5.3 million adults, reporting they used marijuana daily or almost daily last year.

■  Methamphetamine and cocaine use climbed in young adults, ages 18 to 25. The uptick may indicate that users are shifting from opioids to other drugs, said Leo Beletsky, a public health policy expert at Northeastern University.

■  Young adults have increasing rates of serious mental illness, major depression, and suicidal thoughts.

■  The number of new heroin users in 2017 — 81,000 — was lower than the numbers in most years from 2009 to 2016. But it was similar to the numbers of new heroin users in 2002 through 2008.