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Survey: Teen Drug Use Drops

A federal survey shows a significant drop in drug use among American teens, exceeding a goal President Bush set two years ago.

According to a statement by the Department of Health and Human Services, the 2003 Monitoring the Future survey of students in grades 8, 10 and 12 shows that drug use dropped 11 percent since 2001 — meaning roughly 400,000 fewer students use drugs now.

In February 2002, Mr. Bush said he wanted drug use curbed by 10 percent over two years and 25 percent over the next five years.

"Teen drug use has reached a level that we haven't seen in nearly a decade," John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Policy, said in a statement. "This survey shows that when we push back against the drug problem, it gets smaller."

In the survey, students were asked if they had used drugs in the past month, in the past year or at any time during their lives.

This year, 17.3 percent said they had used drugs recently, compared to 19.3 percent two years ago.

There was an 11 percent drop in the share of students who said they used drugs in the past year, from 31.8 percent in 2001 to 28.3 percent this year. A 9 percent reduction was recorded in those saying they had used drugs at some point during their lives: 41 percent said "yes" in 2001, and 37.4 percent in 2003.

Use of the most commonly used drug, marijuana, also slipped by about 11 percent for the one-month and one-year periods, and about 8 percent for students' lifetimes.

The percentage of students saying they had tried LSD or ecstasy also fell from 2001 to 2003. Lifetime alcohol and cigarette use declined as well.

"Ecstasy use is cut in half," Walters said at the White House on Friday. "It was a big area of concern in the past."

Statistics provided by the HHS show that for all three grades surveyed, levels of drug usage were higher than they were in 1993. Among 10th graders, for example, 41 percent said they used over their lifetime in 2003, compared to 32.8 percent in 1993.

At the White House, Walters said Mr. Bush was still not satisfied. Pointing to the 5-year goal, Walters said, "We intend to press ahead on that."

Walters credited anti-drug messages by parents and advertising by his office. He said the survey showed teenagers' attitudes toward drugs were less favorable.

"Having fewer youth use drugs is important because we know that if young people can abstain from drugs before they graduate from high school, they are much less likely to use and have problems with them later," Walters said.

"This survey offers promising signs that more children and young adults are steering clear of illegal drugs," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said. "We must now lengthen our stride as we seek to reach the young people who are still putting their health and futures at risk."

The survey covered 48,467 students from 392 public and private schools.

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