Drug use in 1995 increased sharply among American teenagers for the fourth year in a row, signaling a disturbing erosion of earlier success in the nation’s war against drugs, federal officials said Friday.
A survey of more than 50,000 high-school students in more than 400 schools across the nation shows that one-fifth of eighth-graders, one-third of sophomores and nearly 40 percent of seniors said they’d used an illicit drug of some kind in the past year.
Slightly more than half of those who had used drugs in the past year also reported use in the past month.
The results were a dramatic increase over four years ago, when 11 percent of eighth graders, 20 percent of sophomores and 27 percent of seniors reported using drugs of any kind in the previous 12 months.
Most disturbing is a resurgence of marijuana use in all three grades. Nearly 5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana every day, double the rate reported in 1991. Use of harder drugs is also rising, but much more gradually, the study said.
“Today, I want to … send a message to every parent in this country: Your children are at risk,” Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala warned at a news conference after releasing the study’s findings. “All of you should be concerned about the findings we are releasing today.”
The numbers are the latest from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, which has been distributing questionnaires about drug use among high school seniors for 20 years. Eighth- and 10thgraders were added in 1991.