Pubdate: Thu, 09 Sep 2004
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2004 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Siobhan Mcdonough, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Youth)


WASHINGTON - Fewer American youths are using marijuana, LSD and Ecstasy, 
but more are abusing prescription drugs, the government reported Thursday.

The 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health also found that youths and 
young adults are more aware of the risks of using pot.

The study did find a 5 percent decline in the number of 12- to 17-year-olds 
who say they ever have used marijuana. Among 12- and 13-year olds, current 
marijuana smokers - those who said they used it within a month of the 
survey - declined nearly 30 percent.

"It is encouraging news that more American youths are getting the message 
that drugs are dangerous, including marijuana," Health and Human Services 
Secretary Tommy Thompson said.

The survey was based on in-home interviews with 67,784 respondents age 12 
and older. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3 percentage 

For youths 12 to 17, use of Ecstasy and LSD in the year leading up to the 
survey dropped significantly - 41 percent for Ecstasy and 54 percent for 
LSD. The study, which also included adults, found that overall nearly 20 
million people 12 and older use illegal drugs.

But there was a 20 percent decline between 2002 and 2003 in the number of 
youths described as "heavy users" of pot - meaning they smoke daily or at 
least 20 days each month.

Rates of tobacco use, however, remained fairly constant among all age 
groups. Almost 30 percent of people 12 and older reported that they had 
used it in the past month, compared with 30.4 percent in 2002.

People 18 to 25 continued to have the highest rate of current use of 
cigarettes - 40.2 percent, compared with 40.8 percent in 2002.

Among boys age 12 to 17, 11.9 percent reported current cigarette use, down 
from 12.3 percent in 2002. There was a bigger dip among girls in that age 
group. Some 12.5 percent reported they had smoked cigarettes in the past 
month, compared with 13.6 in 2003.

Survey results on alcohol use showed little change in the number of binge 
and heavy drinkers. About 54 million people 12 and older binged - five or 
more alcoholic drinks - at least once a month. Also, 16.1 million people 
were termed heavy drinkers, described as consuming five or more drinks on 
at least five separate occasions in a month.

People 18 to 25 showed the highest prevalence of binge and heavy drinking.

"Obviously, we have a long way to go when it comes to smoking and even more 
so when for underage drinking," said Charles G. Curie, administrator of the 
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "It remains a 
stubborn and destructive problem."

The study also found that more people had tried prescription pain relievers 
who did not need them for medical reasons. The most striking increase was a 
15 percent rise in prescription drug abuse by people 18 to 25. In the 
broader population of 12 and over, 5 percent more people took those drugs 

The study found that young people who were exposed to anti-drug messages 
outside school took notice, with rates of current pot use 25 percent lower 
than those who did not get those messages.

And youths who believed their parents would strongly disapprove of 
marijuana used it 80 percent less than others.

Among the other findings were these:

- - Drunken driving declined from 2002, but drugged driving held steady.

- - Smoking rates remained largely unchanged overall, with 71 million people 
who had used tobacco in the previous month. But fewer youths reported 
smoking in the previous year or ever.

- - About 2.3 million people had used cocaine in the previous month, 1 
million had used hallucinogens and 119,000 had used heroin.

- - Of the nearly 17 million adult users of illegal drugs last year, nearly 
three-fourths had jobs.

- - Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illegal drug, with 14.6 
million using it at least once a month, according to the survey. About 
two-thirds of new users surveyed were under 18. 
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