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Teen Drug Use Down, But Drinking Holds Steady, U.S. Survey Finds

By Michelle R. Davis — September 06, 2007 1 min read

Teenagers these days are smoking less pot and cigarettes than they did a few years back, but drinking just as much alcohol, a new survey shows.

The 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released Sept. 6, found that the rate of marijuana use by those ages 12 to 17 dropped from 8.2 percent in 2002 to 6.7 percent last year. That trend was particularly strong among teenage boys, the report says.

“The trends in general are very encouraging,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt, whose department oversees the substance-abuse and mental-health-services administration, which conducted the survey.

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For background, previous stories, and Web links, read Safety and Health.

“Fewer teens using drugs today means fewer Americans suffering destructive consequences tomorrow,” said John P.Walters, the White House’s director of national drug-control policy.

The overall rate of illicitdrug use by teenagers has also dropped, the survey also found; in 2006, 9.8 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds admitted to drug use in the past month, vs. 11.6 percent in 2002.

Still, the 2006 rates of both marijuana use and overall teen drug use remained essentially the same as the 2005 rates.

When it comes to underage drinking, about 10.8 million people ages 12 to 20, or 28.3 percent of that age group, reported having consumed alcohol in the previous month. Nineteen percent qualified as binge drinkers, and 6.2 percent were heavy drinkers.

Rates of alcohol use in that age group have remained steady since 2002, the survey found.

The national survey, which the federal government has conducted since 1971, collected information from about 67,500 people age 12 or older on a range of behaviors that included smoking, drinking, and use of heroin, cocaine, and other drugs.

Regarding tobacco use among those 12 to 17, the survey found the rate of smoking declined from 13 percent in 2002 to 10.4 percent in 2006. However, the use of smokeless tobacco rose slightly, going from 2 percent in 2002 to 2.4 percent in 2006.

The full report is available online at www.samhsa.gov.

A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2007 edition of Education Week

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