Pubdate: Fri, 31 Dec 1999
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Copyright: 1999 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Contact:  400 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19101
Author: Tom Avril, Inquirer Trenton Bureau


A 1998 Survey Of High Schoolers Found Rates Similar To Those In '95. But 
More Had Tried Cocaine And Marijuana At A Young Age.

TRENTON - New Jersey high schoolers used illegal drugs and alcohol last 
year at roughly the same levels as their counterparts did in 1995, 
according to a survey released yesterday by the state attorney general.

Attorney General John J. Farmer Jr. said the level of drug use, while 
stable, remained too high. Four out of five of those surveyed had drunk 
alcohol at some point, 42 percent had smoked marijuana at least once, and 
7.3 percent said they had used cocaine at least once.

Farmer cited one survey finding as especially troubling: Among students who 
had used cocaine or marijuana, the numbers who said they had tried the 
drugs before the 10th grade increased from 47.1 percent to 57.3 percent for 
cocaine and 60.7 percent to 68.6 percent for marijuana.

"While the overall results of this survey tell us that we have held the 
line on drug and alcohol use among young people, they also tell us that our 
work is far from done," Gov. Whitman said in a statement.

Farmer said the state needed to reduce drug use through law enforcement, 
education and public awareness.

The survey was administered in October 1998 to 2,851 students from 40 
public schools in grades 10, 11 and 12. State officials yesterday were 
unable to provide the survey's margin of error. The survey was essentially 
the same as surveys given every three years since 1980, and the overall 
findings were roughly consistent with a federal government survey conducted 
last year, the Attorney General's Office said.

For a variety of substances, students were asked if they had ever used the 
substance, if they had used the substances in the last year, and if they 
had done so in the last 30 days.

Among the findings:

The proportion of students surveyed saying they had used inhalants at least 
once dropped from 22.5 percent to 18.2 percent. The number reporting use 
within the previous year dropped from 16.7 percent to 12.5 percent. Figures 
for the previous 30 days dropped as well, from 7.7 percent to 5.1 percent.

The proportion of students surveyed saying they had never used drugs or 
alcohol stayed about the same - 19 percent in 1998, compared with 18.3 
percent in 1995. The number has risen sharply since the first survey in 
1980, when the figure was 5.7 percent.

The percentage of students surveyed saying drugs were "easy to obtain" has 
dropped, most significantly for cocaine and hallucinogens. For cocaine, 53 
percent said the drug would be easy or very easy to obtain, down from 57.2 
percent in 1995. For hallucinogens, 58.6 percent said such substances would 
be easy or very easy to get, down from 64.7 percent in 1995.

The survey also examined the differences in drug use among races and 
socioeconomic groups. In general, white students surveyed were more likely 
to say they had used drugs than black or Latino students, though for some 
drugs the gap was not statistically significant.

As for socioeconomic groups, categories of high, medium and low were 
examined on a schoolwide level, not on a student-by-student basis. There 
was little overall difference in drug use with respect to the school's 
socioeconomic group. Where such differences did exist, students from the 
low group were less likely to use drugs or alcohol than students from 
schools in the high or medium categories, according to the survey.
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