Drug abuse among American youths continues to increase, even though overall drug use in the country is declining, and it’s starting at a younger age, the administration’s drug czar said Tuesday.
“Our children are using drugs again and in increasing numbers,” retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey told reporters. “And we’re seeing new and disturbing phenomenon with heroin exposure, marijuana and other emerging drugs.”
Citing findings from a semi-annual check of drug use trends in the United States, McCaffrey said there were increased hospital admissions for children abusing marijuana, often in combination with alcohol, methamphetamines or crack cocaine.
“In addition, we’re clearly seeing the migration of heroin - smoked, snorted, or injected - into student populations and blue-collar Caucasian workers,” he added. “The drug threat is changing and student populations are picking up on it, and it’s tending to drift into younger years.”
The administration’s point man on the war against drugs said the average age at which kids report first using illegal drugs is 16, but “significant numbers” of eighth-graders had reported trying marijuana.
McCaffrey attributed the rise to a change in values toward drugs since 1990 among children 17 and younger, with resulting increases in drug abuse. “It’s doubled among kids in general; it’s almost tripled among eighth-graders,” he said.
The report on national trends in illegal drug abuse and drug markets in the second half of 1996, conducted by McCaffrey’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, was based on interviews with epidemiologists, drug abuse treatment providers and police in cities across the country. While it did not measure the amount of increase, McCaffrey said the report gave “qualitative assessments” of drug use, compared to the year previous.
The analysis showed that cocaine and crack cocaine abuse had stabilized or declined, although there were still an estimated 1.4 million chronic addicts in America.