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Comic Book Helps Federal Anti-Drug Campaign

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Washington--A 15-year-old drug abuser cuts short a crime-fighter who is giving him and his friends a lecture about the dangers of drugs: "Go back where you came from. You're nothin' but big-shot super-heroes. You don't know anything about this."

But he has spoken to the wrong hero: "Pal, you just made yourself a bad mistake. ... Yeah, they call me Speedy, and I guess I'm a super-hero. I'm 18 now--But when I was 13, I was just like you. I was taking everything that came down the pike. Pot, hash, coke, LSD, heroin--everything."

The exchange occurs in a new anti-drug comic book produced by the Keebler Company and D.C. Comics Inc. as part of the President's Drug Awareness Campaign.

Drug abuse among children has been a major concern of First Lady Nancy Reagan, who earlier this year appeared on the television program "Diff'rent Strokes" to deliver an anti-drug message.

In a preface to the new comic book, the First Lady urges students to become "heroes" in the battle against drug abuse:

"Declare that you will stay drug free. At any cost. You're guaranteed to win. And you'll be a hero--to your mother and father, family and friends, but most of all, to yourself."

Last week, the Education Department began helping with the planned distribution of one million copies of the comic book to 4th graders in 35,000 schools. Versions for other grade levels are planned.

The kit also contains a drug-awareness activity guide for teachers. In it, the director of the Drug Abuse Policy Office of the White House estimates that over one-fourth of students between the ages of 12 and 17 are currently using drugs including alcohol.

A survey of children's attitudes and perceptions about alcohol and other drugs, conducted by the Weekly Reader Periodicals, was also released during a White House press conference last week.

Some 500,000 children responded to the survey, which was distributed in the publisher's magazines to students in grades 4 through 12. The final tabulation was based on 100,000 responses.

According to the preface to the survey, however, the resulting sam-ple is not a random sample of the population. The results have been "weighted to be representative of the population," and should be treated as "indicative of general trends" rather than as precise statistics, the preface says.

Also, the preface says, students in the survey are not reporting on their own behavior, but on what they believe to be happening among their friends.

The survey found that:

About one-third of the students in grades 4 through 8 think drinking is "a big problem" among their peers, and about 40 percent say that about drugs.

"Feeling older" and "fitting in with other kids" are the main reasons that their friends start using alcohol, say 4th- through 7th-graders.

Most students in all grades think there is a risk in daily use of alcohol or marijuana, and marijuana is seen as posing the greater risk.

The Weekly Reader survey was conducted in cooperation with the White House Office of Policy Development, Drug Abuse Policy Office; the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration; the Johnson Institute; the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth; and the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

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