December 12, 2007 in Nation/World

Illegal drug use by teens down

Deb Riechmann Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Illicit drug use by teens continued to gradually decline overall this year, but the use of prescription painkillers remains popular among young people, according to a federally financed study released Tuesday at the White House.

The survey, by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, looked at the behavior of 8th-, 10th- and 12th-graders nationwide. The study, in its 33rd year, found that overall drug use is falling, thanks to a drop in the popularity of marijuana and methamphetamines. But it also found that teen use of other drugs, such as cocaine, is holding steady, and narcotics like OxyContin and Vicodin remain in vogue.

Overall, the proportion of 8th-graders reporting use of an illicit drug at least once in the 12 months before the survey was 24 percent in 1996. It now has fallen to 13 percent – a drop of nearly half.

Among 10th-graders, the rates dropped from 39 percent to 28 percent between 1997 and 2007. Twelfth graders saw a decline from a peak of 42 percent in 1997 to 36 percent this year.

The drugs most responsible for this year’s decline in illicit drug use are marijuana and various stimulants, including amphetamines, methamphetamine and crystal methamphetamine.

“The most encouraging statistic relates to the use of methamphetamine, which has plummeted by an impressive 64 percent since 2001,” President Bush said.

At least one in every 20 high school seniors has at least tried OxyContin, a powerful narcotic drug, in the past year, the study said. The popularity of the painkiller Vicodin also remained constant. The percentage of students using Vicodin was 2.7 percent, 7.2 percent and 9.6 percent in 8th, 10th and 12th grades, respectively.

A number of prescription psychotherapeutic drugs showed steady increases in use outside of their legitimate medical purpose. These include sedatives, tranquilizers and narcotic drugs other than heroin.

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