Thursday, September 09, 2004

Fewer Kids Use Illegal Drugs in U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fewer U.S. teens are using marijuana, Ecstasy orLSD but more are bingeing on alcohol and abusing prescription drugs,according to an annual government survey.While overall rates of illegal drug use have not changed, the use ofsome drugs decreased sharply, the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use andHealth found.Among youths aged 12 to 17, 41 percent fewer said they had used Ecstasyin the past month and 54 percent fewer said they had taken LSD. Thesurvey found a 5 percent decline in the number of teens who had everused marijuana.The Health and Human Services Department quickly credited an advertisingand education campaign. "It is encouraging news that more Americanyouths are getting the message that drugs are dangerous, includingmarijuana," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a statement.The annual survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health ServicesAdministration found that 19.5 million Americans aged 12 and older, or 8percent of that population, currently use illicit drugs.MARIJUANA STILL NO. 1 ILLEGAL DRUG: Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illegal drug, with 14.6million current users or 6.2 percent of the population. The survey foundan estimated 2.6 million new marijuana users in 2002, about two-thirdsof them under the age of 18.The Marijuana Policy Project, which supports the legalization ofmarijuana, said the numbers showed government policies have failed."When you clear away the spin and look at the long-term trends, the realstory is that three decades of drug use surveys show that marijuanaprohibition has completely failed to keep young people from usingmarijuana," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for thegroup.The SAMHSA survey found the numbers of binge and heavy drinkers did notchange between 2002 and 2003. About 54 million Americans 12 and olderadmitted to binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks in arow, in the month before the survey.Young adults aged 18 to 25 were the likeliest binge and heavy drinkers.An estimated 13.6 percent of people 12 or older -- 32 million people --admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol at least once in the12 months prior to the interviews, down from 14.2 percent in 2002.Misuse of three painkillers -- Vicodin, Lortab and Lorcet -- rose from13.1 million to 15.7 million. Similarly the number of people who saidthey had ever misused narcotic painkillers such as Percocet, Percodan,or Tylox rose from 13.1 million to 15.7 million people.An estimated 2.3 million people said they used cocaine in 2003, 604,000of whom used crack. One million used hallucinogens including LSD, PCPand Ecstasy while an estimated 119,000 people used heroin. These numberswere all similar to 2002 rates.The 2003 survey is based on in-person interviews with people aged 12 andolder but it does not include active duty military personnel, thehomeless, prisoners or others in institutions.


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