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Trends in Teen Drug Use

After several years of increase, illicit drug use among adolescents may be stabilizing. A University of Michigan survey released in December shows that while a growing number of older high school students are smoking marijuana, fewer are using other illegal drugs such as cocaine. In addition, eighth graders are less interested in flirting with drugs than they have been. The survey found that the percentage of eighth graders who tried an illegal drug (usually marijuana) at least once was 29.4 percent in 1997, down from 31.2 percent in 1996. Experimentation with heroin dropped from 2.4 percent in 1996 to 2.1 percent last year. The number trying cocaine also fell slightly, and experiments with stimulants and hallucinogens declined.

The 1997 Monitoring the Future survey, conducted for the National Institute of Drug Abuse and regarded as the most accurate measure of illegal drug use by teenagers, confirmed that while the rate of drug experimentation is higher than in the early 1990s, the upward movement may be leveling off. (Cocaine experimentation did increase slightly among high school seniors; 8.7 percent said they had tried powder cocaine in 1997, compared with 7.1 percent in 1996.)

Alcohol remains the largest problem. Thirty-one percent of high school seniors, 25 percent of sophomores, and 15 percent of eighth graders said they consumed at least five consecutive drinks one or more times in the previous two weeks.

-- Janet Firshein

Trends in Teen Drug Use
Drug Use Among High School Seniors

Legal Drugs

Illicit Drugs

Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Source: The University of Michigan News and Information Service, press release, April 9, 1993.

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