Survey: Youths' Drug Use Declining

Survey: Youths' Drug Use Declining
Posted by FoM on March 30, 2000 at 13:58:23 PT
By Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
The number of Maryland teenagers and preteens who use alcohol, tobacco or drugs appears to have declined slightly in recent years, according to a survey released this month by the state.Yet the use of marijuana and cigarettes among a variety of adolescent age groups surveyed remains higher than when semiannual statewide surveys began a decade ago, suggesting that anti-drug education efforts may be slow to have an effect. 
For example, 28.6 percent of high school seniors reported smoking cigarettes in the past month--down from 32 percent two years ago, but still up from 24.1 a decade ago.Among eighth-graders, 10 percent reported using marijuana in the past month, up from 3.5 percent in 1988.Officials at the Maryland State Department of Education expressed concern about the continued high rates of substance abuse, but noted that Maryland high school seniors are less likely than their peers across the country to have used alcohol or cigarettes recently.They said they believe the increase could reflect the cuts in anti-drug program funding during the recession of the early '90s, but noted that usage rates seem to be declining after peaking six or eight years ago."It's up [from 10 years ago]," acknowledged agency spokesman Sandy Shepherd, "but it's dropping back again." Maryland high school seniors were also less likely than their peers across the country to have used alcohol or cigarettes recently.The most recent edition of the survey, which is given every two years to students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12, was completed by 22,140 students across the state in December 1998.State and local school officials use the results to pinpoint trends and problems and to assess the effectiveness of their initiatives against substance abuse.In recent years, many districts have started taking the results more seriously. Carroll County officials said that at first they paid little attention to a 1994 increase in the small number of seniors who reported trying heroin. "We thought it was a blip in the screen," said Joanne Hayes, the county school system's coordinator for anti-drug programs. But later, the rural-suburban county saw a surprising number of heroin overdose deaths among young people."Once you have that life experience, it really makes you look at these numbers," said Hayes. Later, when a 1996 survey showed a 5 percent increase in the number of sixth-graders who smoke, the county decided to intensify its anti-tobacco efforts for the next few years. "It became important to us to never miss anything like that again," she said.The brightest news in the survey is the continued drop in the number of older teenagers who reported drinking alcohol in the previous month.Among seniors, 48.4 percent had had a drink in the previous 30 days, down from 52.4 percent two years earlier, and down from 60.2 percent in 1988. Of sophomores, 42.9 percent reported drinking in that time period, down from 43.7 percent in the last survey and 50.5 percent decade earlier.But the trend lines have held mostly steady for younger children. About 26.6 percent of eighth-graders and 9.1 percent of sixth-graders reported drinking, compared with 27.2 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively, a decade earlier.Meanwhile, more children are using drugs than did a decade ago, though slightly less than two years ago--28.1 percent of all high school seniors and 15 percent of eighth-graders. Marijuana appears to reign still as the drug of choice--used by 24.2 percent of seniors sometime in the previous month, up from 15.1 percent in 1988. And "designer drugs," such as Ecstasy, have also shown small but significant increases over the years. Of seniors, 3.1 percent had used such substances in the past 30 days.For the first time, this year's survey asked students in grades 8, 10 and 12 how they feel about school safety. Roughly 80 percent said they never or rarely feel unsafe at school or in their neighborhoods. The older students were less likely to say they ever felt unsafe.State officials said the survey also demonstrated the strong influence of parents in the decisions that young people make. Teenagers who did not use drugs or alcohol were far more likely to report that they "always" have an adult available to talk with them, make sure they wake up on time and worry about their whereabouts. They also were more likely to report sharing at least one meal a day with their families or at least one weekly activity."Even though peer pressure is tremendous, what parents say and do has more to do with that than they think," Shepherd said. By Amy ArgetsingerWashington Post Staff WriterThursday, March 30, 2000; Page M01  Copyright 2000 The Washington Post CompanyRelated Article:Marijuana Persists as Substance Abuse Issue Articles On Surveys:
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Comment #2 posted by MikeEEEEEEEEEEEE on March 30, 2000 at 17:35:32 PT
Ignorant Reporter
Ignorance was what got us into this mess.
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Comment #1 posted by Santor on March 30, 2000 at 14:13:16 PT
junk journalism
Apparantly, the reporter has difficulty realizing that tobacco and alchohol are drugs, and for teens, they are illegal drugs. Send the poor wretch back to journalism school.
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