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Early Use of Drugs

Found Linked With

Later Drug Habits

The younger a teen-ager was when he or she first used one drug--including cigarettes or alcohol--the higher the number of different substances the teen-ager now reports using, a new study has found. But, the researchers who conducted the study caution, the use of one drug does not necessarily lead to abuse of others.

The research, directed by Carol Mills, a psychologist at Franklin and Marshall College, involved the study of 4,400 boys and girls in Maryland public schools between 1978 and 1980. Together with Harvey Noyes, a psychologist with Citicorp Financial Inc., Ms. Mills questioned 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students about their use of drugs.

The survey showed that alcohol was the most commonly used drug, with 67 percent of 8th graders, 81 percent of 10th graders, and 87 percent of 12th graders reporting alcohol consumption. Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug, with nearly half the 10th and 12th graders reporting marijuana use. Six percent of the 8th graders and 19 percent of the 12th graders said they smoked it several times a week.

Only a small number of high-school students move from marijuana to hard drugs, but those who do become involved in using those drugs rarely do so without experimenting first with marijuana, the psychologists found.

Those who used drugs had lower grades, more spending money, and were less certain about their plans for future education than those who did not use drugs. The researchers note, however, that the lower grades may have preceded use of drugs, as has been found in other studies.

The study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, April 1984.

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