Adult Drug Use Stable, But More Youths Using Marijuana, Poll Finds

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Though overall drug use among adults has leveled off, young people are using marijuana in growing numbers, according to a recent federal report.

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, conducted each year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that in 1997 9.4 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds used marijuana in the past month, compared with 7.1 percent in 1996. There were no significant increases in the use of inhalants, hallucinogens, cocaine, or heroin between 1996 and 1997.

Young people in the 1997 study also were less likely than those in 1996 to think that using marijuana once or twice a week was risky. The perceived risk of marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds has continued to decline since 1991, and marijuana use in that age group has increased each year, the survey reports.

In 1995, HHS started the Marijuana Initiative to research the effects of the drug, and it has launched prevention-oriented campaigns to help parents educate their children about drug use.

"We in the government must be an ally in helping parents talk early and often with their children about the dangerous road of substance abuse," Donna E. Shalala, the department's secretary, said in a written statement.

Preliminary results from the 1997 study are available on the World Wide Web at

Teenagers continue to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, other health problems, and possibly premature death, a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Behavior such as drinking and driving; using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol; and unprotected sex is common among youths, according to the 1997 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey.

The CDC surveyed more than 16,000 students in grades 9-12 nationwide last spring. It found that almost half, or 48.4 percent, of students had had sexual intercourse at least once.

About 50 percent said they had at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days, and about 26 percent said they had smoked marijuana in the past month.

Among sexually active students, 56.8 percent said they used a condom during their last sexual intercourse.

The survey has been conducted every other year since 1990. The CDC is in the process of comparing earlier results to analyze trends in the data, said Nancy Brenner, a researcher at the Atlanta-based centers who worked on the report.

The full report is available on the World Wide Web at

A cardiovascular program for 3rd and 4th graders significantly reduced cholesterol levels in those children in eight weeks, new research shows.

Researchers at the school of nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted the Cardiovascular Health in Children study.

The program, sponsored by the National Institute of Nursing Research, included classroom lessons on healthful living and regular physical activity, and involved more than 400 children from across North Carolina. The children all had risk factors for cardiovascular disease and were drawn from a larger study group of more than 2,000 children.

In addition to lower cholesterol levels, cardiovascular-disease risk factors related to blood pressure and physical inactivity also decreased.

Research results showed that both classroomwide and small intervention groups experienced relatively similar reductions in cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat.

Joanne Harrell, a nurse and the lead researcher on the study, recommends a classroomwide approach to more healthful behaviors in elementary schools. "Programs addressing health behaviors at an important time in children's development should lower the nation's high incidence of cardiovascular disease down the road," she said in the report.

The study findings appear in the Aug. 3 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Low-income, minority, and young people are more likely than other groups to quit or cut back on smoking because of cigarette price increases, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The federal agency analyzed 14 years of health data from people 18 and older and found that smokers with family incomes equal to or below $33,106--the median family income from the sample group--were more likely than smokers with family incomes above the median to quit over higher cigarette prices.

"All experts agree that one of the most important steps we can take to reduce smoking is to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes significantly," Donna E. Shalala, the U.S. secretary of health and human services, said in a press release.

Other measures recommended by the CDC for reducing smoking among youths include enforcing tobacco-access laws, school-based education, restricting tobacco advertising and promotion, and conducting anti-smoking campaigns.


Vol. 18, Issue 1, Page 18

Published in Print: September 9, 1998, as Adult Drug Use Stable, But More Youths Using Marijuana, Poll Finds
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