Drug use drops among teens in Texas and California

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Drug use by teenagers has dropped markedly in recent years in Texas and California, indicating that efforts to curb smoking and drinking, in particular, are having an effect.

The declines, measured in two separate studies conducted in two of America's largest states, are encouraging to parents, schools, and state officials who oversee millions of dollars in antidrug education programs.

The news from California showed that a decade-long rise in the rate of student drug use has finally reversed - with use of alcohol registering the biggest drop. The biennial survey of seventh-, ninth-, and 11th-graders showed alcohol consumption declined at least 10 points for all three beverages: beer, wine, and hard liquor.

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Still, about one-third of California seventh-graders, half of ninth-graders, and two-thirds of 11th-graders said they had used alcohol over a six-month period in 1999.

In Texas, smoking and drinking among seventh- through 12th-graders reached a 10-year low. Some 22.4 percent said they'd smoked tobacco in the previous month, compared with 22.9 percent in 1990. And 36.1 percent reported using alcohol, compared with 43.6 percent 10 years ago.

Tobacco and alcohol are the drugs most widely used by teenage students, so the declines are being celebrated in antidrug circles. Officials say the new statistics mirror national trends, and they credit state agencies and private groups that have launched ads and other programs intended to curb underage drinking and smoking.

In Texas, for example, an alliance of more than 45 state agencies and private groups have come together to combat underage drinking.

But the two surveys pointed to some disconcerting trends, as well. Heroin use rose in California, a change attributed to a new, smokable form of the drug. The increase, moreover, was fairly dramatic:

The number of 11th-graders who said they used heroin in the previous six months jumped from 1.7 percent in 1998 to 5.2 percent in the last school year.

In Texas, reported use of other drugs rose, too. Between 1990 and 2000, marijuana use among teens rose from 7.8 percent to 13.7 percent. Ecstasy, a so-called designer drug, was used by 1.9 percent of Texas students, up from 1.3 percent in 1990.

Compiled from news reports

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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