Drug use by U.S. teens declines, survey says
WASHINGTON (AP) - American teenagers are cutting their use of illicit drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, said an annual survey for the government released Monday.
The downside: A large number of young people still using drugs, said Lloyd D. Johnston, who directed the study by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research.
"There's a smorgasbord of drugs that are out there," said Johnston. "Very few drugs leave the table, but there are always new ones being discovered and put forward, like Ecstasy."
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 over the past decade at dance parties known as raves for the energy and euphoria it gives users.
The survey of 8th-, 10th- and 12th-graders has been done for the Department of Health and Human Services for 28 years.
Results from the 2002 Monitoring the Future study showed more than half of 12th graders have used an illicit drug. Thirty percent of 12th-graders have used some drug other than marijuana, and 11 percent have used Ecstasy.
Still, those figures are down from recent years. For example, Ecstasy use among 10th-graders in the past year declined from 6.2 percent to 4.9 percent.
"As youngsters came to see it as more dangerous to use, they moved away from it," Johnston said. In 2002, 52 percent of 12th-graders noted a great risk of harm associated with Ecstasy, up 14 percentage points from 2000 figures.
The survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tracked illicit drug use and attitudes among 44,000 students from 394 schools.
-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 8th-, 10th- and 12th-graders. LSD use by 12th-graders reached the lowest point in the last 28 years.
-Use of cocaine and heroin remained stable.
-Cigarette smoking decreased in each grade, expanding on a recent trend. There has been a 50 percent decline since its peak year in 1996.
John Walters, director of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the survey shows that drug prevention efforts are working.
"Drug use by our young people is headed down to levels that we haven't seen in years," Walters said. "This is very good news for communities across America."