Pubdate: Fri, 17 Dec 1999
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1999 Associated Press
Author: David Ho


WASHINGTON (AP) - Overall teen-age drug use remained stable for the third
consecutive year, but more high school students have been using steroids
and the ``club drug'' ecstasy, the government reported today.

The annual Monitoring the Future survey examines drug, alcohol and
cigarette use among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders. While drug use rose
through most of the 1990s, this year's report marks three years of steady -
and in some cases, dropping - drug and alcohol use, according to a summary
of the findings.

``Today's report confirms that we have halted the dangerous trend of
increased drug use among our young people,'' said Donna Shalala, secretary
of health and human services.

``Our job now is to continue the momentum we have built up with local
communities, parents and teachers, and to work even harder to let
teen-agers know the real danger of alcohol, tobacco and drugs,'' she said.

The use of most illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and
inhalants, remained steady in 1998. Cigarette smoking remained stable,
although there was a small decline among eighth-graders.

Also among eighth-graders, the use of crack cocaine began to decline this
year after tripling between 1991 and 1998.

While alcohol consumption generally remained stable, seniors reported a
slight decrease in daily use. Their use of crystal methamphetamine also

Barry McCaffrey, the White House drug policy director, said the findings
were encouraging and served as an indicator that the country's strategy
against drug abuse is working.

``If we can prevent drug, tobacco or alcohol abuse by a child through his
or her teens, statistically speaking, that child will avoid chemical
dependency as an adult,'' McCaffrey said.

However, not all the news was good.

For the first time since the survey began examining the drug ecstasy in
1996, use among 10th- and 12th-graders increased.

Ecstasy, a methamphetamine that increases heart rate and body temperature
to sometimes dangerous levels, is often used at ``raves,'' all-night dances
where young people may mix the drug with alcohol, according to the National
Institute on Drug Abuse.

Among high school seniors, 8 percent reported trying ecstasy at least once,
up from 5.8 percent last year. The number who said they had used the drug
in the past year jumped to 5.6 percent from 3.6 percent in 1998.

Another cause for alarm was the increasing number of teens using steroids,
McCaffrey said.

The survey found that steroid use climbed among eighth- and 10th-graders.
Male teens saw an even greater increase, with 2.8 percent of 10th-graders
saying they used steroids in the past year compared with 1.9 percent in 1998.

Also, the number of seniors who perceived taking steroids as harmful
declined from 68.1 percent to 62.1 percent.

Teen drug use became a serious problem in the late 1960s, peaking in 1979.
It then fell through the 1980s, hitting a low in 1991 and 1992 before
beginning to climb again.

The survey, which has tracked teen-age drug use since 1975, surveyed nearly
45,000 teen-agers anonymously at 433 schools across the country.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake