Pubdate: Mon, 04 Sep 2000
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2000, New Haven Register


The first federal survey of drug abuse in every state estimates that
greater percentages of Connecticut's young people are using illicit
drugs compared with those in other states.

A total of 13.4 percent of young people in Connecticut age 12 to 17
reported use of at least one illicit drug during the previous month.
This ranked Connecticut fifth, behind Rhode Island, Massachusetts,
Montana and Delaware.

"We need to do a lot more parent education, bringing parents in and
training them more so they have more awareness of what a teen-ager's
life is like these days," said James Horton, health educator at
Cromwell High School.

Connecticut and New England in general remain a hotbed for marijuana
use among those 18 to 25, according to the National Household Survey
on Drug Abuse, prepared by the Department of Health and Human
Services. Connecticut teen-agers also have somewhat higher rates of
so-called "binge alcohol" use.

The survey interviewed 67,000 young people across the country last
year on a variety of topics related to substance abuse. It found wide
differences in drug use among states. Nationwide, the survey found
drug use down among those 12 to 17, but up for those 18 to 35.

The news younger teens are turning away from drugs suggests a positive
trend for the future, federal officials said.

"It's amazingly encouraging," said Bob Weiner, a spokesman for Gen.
Barry R. McCaffrey, director of the White House office on drug control

He said the decline in use among young teens was a sign community
efforts by schools, police and parents were making a difference.
Overall, about 15 million Americans were estimated to be current users
of illicit drugs in 1999, compared with the high point of drug use in
1979, when the figure was 25 million.

An estimated 18.1 percent of those age 18 to 25 in Connecticut
reported marijuana use  a high percentage, but behind Massachusetts,
where almost 28 percent in that age bracket reported inhaling within a
month of being surveyed. Some 9.3 percent of Connecticut young people
age 12 to 17 reported marijuana use within the same period.

The survey found that 56.5 percent reported obtaining marijuana was
"fairly or very easy."

There was relatively little difference in reported marijuana use
between those who had a drug education class and those who had not.

The percent of youths who perceived a risk in smoking marijuana has
declined, from 32.6 percent in 1996 to 29.0 percent in 1999.

While drug use among younger teens is decreasing nationally, smoking
and alcohol use is not.

According to the data, 19 percent of young people age 12 to 17
reported they drank at least once in the past month, and 52 percent of
Americans age 12 and older reported current alcohol use. In 1999, 7.8
percent of youths age 12 to 17 reported binge drinking during the
previous month.

Dealing with substance abuse problems often falls at the door of the
public schools, but experts say the solutions must come more from the

"The problem is not just on the backs of the schools," said Nancy
Pugliese, who supervises the state Department of Education's office of
Safe and Drug-Free Schools. "The majority of use is on the weekends.
It has to be a concerted effort in the community to really come
together and educate."
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