Pubdate: Wed, 13 Jul 2005
Source: Charlotte Creative Loafing (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inc.
Author: Tara Servatius


Teen stats show preference for pharmaceuticals

Twenty years after the first Reagan-era public service announcement that
warned young people to "just say no," Mecklenburg County's kids just don't
seem as interested in street drugs as they were a decade ago. Now, it
appears, they're high on pharmaceuticals.

A survey of 3,400 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students by Substance Abuse
Prevention Services of the Carolinas showed drug, alcohol and tobacco use
declining by a third to three-quarters over the last decade, depending on
the substance.

Only 17 percent of today's students have tried marijuana, compared to 31
percent in 1995, the survey found. Cocaine use fell from four to one
percent, and crack, it seems, is out of style.

When prescription drug use wasn't counted, only 27 percent of kids said they
had experimented with drugs. When prescription drugs were counted, however,
the number jumped to 43 percent.

Only alcohol was consistently more popular than drugs that can be obtained
from a pharmacy. In a head-to-head contest between pharmaceuticals and
marijuana, it was pretty much a tie overall, although kids in the higher
grades preferred a pharmaceutical high while younger teenagers lit up for

When the county's kids do smoke and drink, they start young. A third of the
regular smokers and drinkers started before age 12. About half of those who
used marijuana regularly started before 14.

In middle school, more African-American kids went on drinking binges and
smoked cigarettes and marijuana than white kids. By high school, though, the
trend had reversed and white kids were smoking, drinking and doing drugs
more than black kids were, although African-Americans still edged out whites
in the marijuana-use category.

In middle school, the girls drank and did drugs more than the boys, but by
high school, that trend, too, had reversed itself.

Meanwhile, use of drug-store drugs is gaining in popularity. Depressants,
tranquilizers and sleeping pills beat out old street favorites from the
Reagan era such as heroin, cocaine or speed, and even more recent "rave"
drugs like Ecstasy, the survey showed. Today's kids prefer Valium and Xanax.

All of this is pretty ironic when you consider that the pharmaceutical
industry got its big boost during the Reagan era. So while Congress spent
billions battling drug use in the 1980s, it also was spending billions
developing the next generation of pharmaceutical drugs that kids are
ordering off the Internet today. Your tax dollars at work.
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