A growing conservatism in the attitude of teen-agers toward drugs? That's what researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research observe at the close of a nationwide survey of drug use among high school seniors. The study, conducted last year for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, concludes that illicit drug use remains widespread but is leveling off -- in some cases declining -- rather than continuing its dramatic rise of the last two decades.
Heroin and alcohol use among the 17,000 high school seniors surveyed remained steady. About two-thirds of those surveyed said they had used illicit drugs at some point in their lives, and close to 2 of every 5 had used something other than marijuana, such as cocaine and amphetamines. But the use of inhalants, PCP , and marijuana was down. In fact, the authors suggest that 1978 and '79 may well mark the peak in the rise of marijuana use. They credit the extensive publicity given new scientific evidence of health risks of marijuana for much of the falloff. Researchers note that peer disapproval of marijuana use is also on the rise.
The Michigan report points to a continuation of the long-term decline in the use of barbiturates, tranquillizers, and cigarettes.
"Overall . . . we're observing a gradually increasing conservatism among young people in their attitudes toward drugs," says Dr. Lloyd Johnston, one of the authors. But he cautions that it is unlikely the nation will ever again experience s uch relatively drug-free years as the 1950s.