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Seniors' Use of Illicit Drugs Down For 4th Straight Year, Survey Finds

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For the fourth consecutive year, the percentage of high-school seniors who say they have used an illicit drug during the past month has decreased, a federal survey of high-school students has found.

But the annual survey, conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan under a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found a slight increase in the percentage of students who smoke cigarettes on a regular basis.

According to the national survey of nearly 16,000 high-school seniors, students in the class of 1990 were consistently less likely to use cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, or crack than students who graduated in 1989.

During the past month, 14 percent said they had smoked marijuana, 1.9 percent said they had used cocaine, 0.7 percent reported using crack, and 57.1 percent said they had consumed alcohol.

For the class of 1989, 16.7 percent had used marijuana, 2.8 had used cocaine, 1.4 percent had smoked crack, and 60 percent had used alcohol during the previous month.

Tobacco use, however, became more popular among high-school seniors. The survey found that 29.4 percent had smoked cigarettes during the previous month, up from 28.6 percent in 1989. Heavy use was also slightly more prevalent; 19.1 percent said they smoked daily, up from 18.9 percent in 1989.

The survey found that nearly one-third of the students said they had consumed more than five drinks on a single occasion during the previous two weeks, virtually unchanged from the year before. And 3.7 percent of the seniors said they drank daily, down from 4.2 percent the previous year.

A new drug, crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," has limited popularity, the survey showed. One4tenth of 1 percent of the students said they used it daily, and 0.6 percent said they had used it during the previous month.

In the past, the survey has been criticized for not taking into account the drug-use patterns of dropouts. A federal household survey released late last year found that dropouts were 63 percent more likely to use drugs than high-school graduates.

To learn about the drug-use patterns of such students before they drop out, the high-school survey will be expanded this year to include students in the 8th and 10th grades.

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