Pubdate: Tue, 24 Dec 2002
Source: Leader-Herald, The (NY)
Copyright: 2002 - The Leader Herald


Good news in the war against drugs is hardly worth mentioning, in light of 
the accompanying bad news.

The good news is that fewer American youngsters are using illegal drugs, 
according to a federal government study.

But here's the bad news: Even with the decrease, more than half of high 
school seniors admit to having used illegal drugs. Nearly one-third of them 
have tried drugs other than marijuana. Ready for some more bad news? Use of 
cocaine and heroin - among the most dangerous illegal drugs - does not seem 
to have decreased.

Analysts say there is some reason to believe that many young people stop 
using specific drugs when they become worried about health hazards. That, 
they say, explains why less use of the "rave" drug Ecstasy was reported 
during the past year. Unfortunately, that theory doesn't explain why young 
people continue to use cocaine and heroin in large quantities. Frankly, 
we're tempted to wonder if the drop-off in Ecstasy consumption is because 
the drug represented a fad, the novelty of which has worn off.

Some studies of behavior by young people are suspect for a variety of 
reasons, including relatively small samples in surveys. But the annual 
Monitoring the Future study of youth drug use, conducted by the National 
Institute on Drug Abuse, is persuasive; it surveyed about 44,000 students 
in grades 8, 10 and 12 at 394 schools throughout the nation.

Percentages of eighth- and 10th-graders using illegal drugs dropped 
slightly during the past year, according to the study's findings. The 
percentage of 12th-graders using some drugs, including Ecstasy and LSD, 
also dropped. But, again, overall use of illegal drugs by young people 
remains intolerably high. When more than half of high school seniors admit 
using them, there's a problem.

How to handle it? A mixture of education and enforcement seems to have 
helped - but clearly, there is much more to accomplish. And, to judge by 
the fact that use of drugs such as cocaine and heroin, targeted for 
education campaigns, has increased, it would appear the emphasis should be 
on enforcement. Cutting off the supply of illegal drugs to young Americans 
should be a priority.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart