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Teen drug use - except cocaine - falls.

The level of cocaine use among U.S. high school seniors has not changed since 1979, although there is a growing aversion to marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol, according to an annual nation-wide survey released last week.

Self-reports of cocaine use sharply increased between 1976 and 1979, but since then the rates of use have been relatively stable, says Lloyd D. Johnston of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, one of three social psychologists who conducted the study of approximately 16,000 high school seniors in 140 public and private schools throughout the United States. "Still, usage levels are troublesomely high," he notes.

Of the seniors surveyed last year, 16 percent had used cocaine at least once, 12 percent had used it during the previous year and 6 percent were monthly users of the drug. Monthly use increased the most in the northeastern states, from 7 percent in 1983 to 11 percent in 1984.

At the same time, monthly use of all illicit dugs among seniors dropped to 29 percent in 1984, down from 33 percent in the previous year. This is the lowest reported level since the government-sponsored survey began in 1975.

Monthly use of marijuana fell to 25 percent in 1984 from 27 percent in 1983. Daily use was reported by 5 percent of the seniors, continuing a steady decline from the 11 percent reported in 1978.

"While most seniors do not view experimental or occasional use of marijuana as particularly risky, between one-half and two-thirds of all seniors personally disapporve of these behaviors," says Johnston. Marijuana's loss of popularity in the face of its widespread availability shows that "drug abuse fcan be dealt with effectively through reducing the demand for drugs, not just the supply," he adds.

The percentage of seniors reporting alcohol use in the prior 30-day period continued to decline from a peak of 72 percent in 1979 to 67 percent in 1984. The number drinking daily, or almost daily, fell from 7 percent to 5 percent over the same period. "Binge drinking" (5 or more drinks in a orw during the last two weeks) declined to 39 percent last year from 41 percent in 1983.

Cigarette smoking by seniors fell to the lowest level ever reported, with less than 19 percent somking half a pack or more a day.

In addition, there were moderate declines in monthly use of LSD, sedatives, stimulants and PCP. The use of heroin and other opiates remained stable between 1983 and 1984.
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Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 19, 1985
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