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National survey finds drug use declining for teens

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

WASHINGTON -- American teenagers are cutting their use of illicit drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, said a report to the government Monday.

Monitoring the Future, a survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders done for the Department of Health and Human Services, found declines in most major categories for all age groups.

"This survey confirms that our drug-prevention efforts are working and that when we work together and push back, the drug problem gets smaller," John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said at a news conference.

The annual survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tracked illicit drug use and attitudes among 44,000 students from 394 schools.

Lloyd D. Johnston, who directed the study by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, said the terrorist attacks may have contributed to lower drug use.

"There has been a shock effect," he said. He said it appears that "9-11 has had a sobering impact on some young people."

Still, half of all 12th-graders reported using an illicit drug, with marijuana the most popular. Use of the drug Ecstasy has fallen after exploding during the 1990s.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a synthetic drug considered part hallucinogen and part amphetamine that has been linked to brain, heart and kidney damage. It became popular at dance parties because of the energy and euphoria it gave to users.

The survey found 52 percent of 12th-graders noted a great risk of harm associated with Ecstasy, up 14 percentage points from 2000 figures.

Rose after Gulf War

Johnston warned that the nation's focus on the terrorism threat and a possible with war with Iraq could cause drug use to increase among children. He pointed out that drug use rose in the years following the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"Wars have a way of knocking domestic issues off the screen," he said.

Other findings in the survey:

20 percent of eighth-graders said they drank alcohol in the last month, a 23 percent decline from the 26 percent who answered similarly in the 1996 survey.

Cigarette smoking decreased in each grade, expanding on a recent trend. There has been a 50 percent decline for 8th-graders since its peak year in 1996. Eight-graders who said they had smoked in the last month fell from 21 percent in 1996 to 10.7 percent, and daily smokers fell from 10.4 percent to 5.1 percent. Smoking rates for 10th-graders fell by nearly half since 1996.

Percentages of 8th- and 10th-graders using any illicit drug declined and were at their lowest level since 1993 and 1995, respectively.

Marijuana use decreased among 10th graders, and in the past year, the rate of use of 14.6 percent among 8th-graders was the lowest level since 1994, and well below the recent peak of 18.3 percent in 1996. Roughly 30.3 percent of 10th graders reported marijuana use in 2002, compared with 34.8 percent in 1997.

LSD use decreased significantly among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders. LSD use by 12th-graders reached the lowest point in the last 28 years.

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On the Net

www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov


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