DRUG USE: More Youths Are Using Marijuana
A new government survey finds that "[i]llegal drug use among American youths rose in 1997," an increase that was fueled by growing consumption of marijuana. The National Household Survey on Drug Use "found that nearly 1 in 10 youths ages 12 to 17 had smoked marijuana at least once in the month preceding the survey." Alarmingly, the study found that drug use "among 12- and 13-year-olds surg[ed] more than 70%" last year (Price, Washington Times, 8/22). According to the survey, youths ages "12-17 who currently smoke cigarettes were about 12 times as likely to use illicit drugs and 23 times as likely to drink heavily as nonsmoking youth." Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said, "This survey shows that our work in combating drug use must be focused on our young people. It shows that abuse of one substance like marijuana often goes hand in hand with the abuse of other substances. Most of all, this survey says to me that we must work even more closely with parents."
The 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that 11.4% of youths ages 12-17 reported using illicit drugs in the past month, up from 9% in 1996. In addition, 5.1% of the population age 12 and over reported that they were current users of marijuana. There was a statistically significant increase in the number of youths ages 12-13 who reported using cigarettes in the past month, climbing from 7.3% in 1996 to 9.7% in 1997 (HHS release, 8/21). In the 12-13 age group, the study found that the rate of "current illicit drug use" rose from 2.2% to 3.8%. Shalala said one reason why more youths are using marijuana is the incorrect perception that the drug poses little or no risks. "When it comes to marijuana and young people, as the perception of risk goes down, the rate of use goes up," she said (Washington Times, 8/22). The 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse findings are available online at http://www.samhsa.gov.