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Teen-age drug use down, anti-drug group's survey finds


November 22, 1999
Web posted at: 7:55 a.m. EST (1255 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After years on the rise, teen-agers' use of a variety of illicit drugs declined or leveled off from 1997 to 1999, according to a study released Monday.

The study was conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a private, non-profit organization is best known for its national anti-drug advertising campaigns. Its chairman, James Burke, said drug use started going up in 1991.

"That line leveled off last year and is now showing a marginal decline," Burke said in a written statement. "We are still at the top of this dangerous, disturbing mountain."

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The survey contacted 6,529 teen-agers between 13 and 18. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 1.8 percentage points.

Marijuana use, which had the highest increase in the 1990s, showed a slight but steady decline from 1997 to 1999. The decline appeared in three categories -- trial use, use during the past year and use during the past month.

And for the first time since 1993, the reported use of cocaine and crack declined. Eight percent of those surveyed said they used some form of cocaine in 1998, while only seven percent said so in 1999.

The researchers said teen attitudes toward drug use may be changing after years of anti-drug campaigns.

"A major element of this growing social disapproval of drugs among teens seems to stem from a change in how culture is disassociating 'coolness' from drug use," said Barbara Delaney, a spokeswoman for the group. "Cultural icons -- especially musicians and actors -- are less likely to be seen as purveyors of marijuana or drug 'coolness,' " she said.

Added Burke, "Attitudes are changing for the better. When attitudes change, behavior changes usually follow, gradually at first and then, if trends continue, steadily."

In other findings from the survey:

  • The self-reported trial use of inhalants dropped to 19 percent of the survey group this year, down from 22 and 23 percent in 1998 and 1997. And methamphetamine use, popular in the West and Southwest, also declined.

  • Trial use of the stimulant ecstasy remained steady at seven percent. Experimentation with heroin also remained stable: three percent of teens in 1999 tried the drug versus four percent during each of the last two years.

  • Forty percent of teens said they strongly agree that "really cool" teens do not use drugs, compared with 35 percent who said the same thing last year.

  • Teens who believe that "most people will try marijuana sometimes" has declined to 35 percent from 40 percent in 1998. In 1997, 41 percent believed that.

  • The percentage of teens who said they agreed with the statement, "It seems like marijuana is everywhere these days," dropped to 48 percent this year, down from 52 percent in 1998 and 59 percent in 1997.

Sunday Morning News: Campaign 2000: Maurice Carroll Discusses the Latest Numbers in the Quinnipiac Poll
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March 17, 1999
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March 18, 1999
Singing the praises of pot on 'Hempilation 2'
November 20, 1998
Survey says 13 is important age in stemming teen drug use
September 1, 1998

Partnership for a Drug-Free America
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The National Academies
Marijuana medical use
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