Higher Illegal Drug Use Among U.S. Teens
European teenagers are more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol than American teenagers, but American teens are "far more likely" to use marijuana and other illegal drugs, according to a report released yesterday at a World Health Organization meeting. The study compared results of 1999 surveys of 14,000 American 10th graders and 95,000 10th graders in 30 European nations. The Council of Europe, an intergovernmental organization focused on economic and social issues, developed the study in conjunction with University of Michigan researchers working on the "Monitoring the Future" project. That project has surveyed U.S. students on various issues for 26 years and "is considered the most reliable barometer of student drug use trends," the New York Times reports. According to the study, 37% of European students had smoked at least one cigarette in the last 30 days, compared to 26% of U.S. students. In addition, 61% of European students had drank alcohol in the last 30 days, compared to 40% of U.S. students. Twenty-three percent of U.S. students had used illegal drugs, compared to 6% of European students. Specifically, 41% of U.S. students had tried marijuana, compared with 17% of European students. Thor Bjarnason, report co-author and sociologist at the State University of New York-Albany, said the differences in drug use were "very striking," noting that one in four U.S. students had used illegal drugs, compared to one in 10 in the European countries with the highest use. Still, the New York Times reports that illegal drug use rose in European countries, particularly those in Eastern Europe, between 1995 and 1999. While researchers "offered little analysis" to explain the differences, they did say that widespread illegal drug use began in the United States and then spread to Europe, meaning that "it might be that Europeans simply follow the American trend" (Zernike, New York Times, 2/21).