Illicit Drug Use on the Decline in U.S. Schools, But Marijuana Easier To Obtain, Survey Finds
Although fewer adolescents are using drugs in school, an increasing number of teens say that marijuana is "easier to buy than beer and cigarettes," the Christian Science Monitor reports. According to Columbia University's National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse, 62% of U.S. teens said that they have not seen drugs used, dealt or stored in their schools this year. This year's survey marks the first time that more than half of teens have not reported drug use, dealing or storage in schools, compared to 42% in 2000 and 31% in 1998. Experts say that a number of factors have helped reduce drug prevalence in schools. Schools themselves seem to play the largest role, with many schools increasing enforcement of antidrug policies or drug testing for students. Some experts also cite the 1994 federal antidrug act for raising national awareness of the issue, while others say that ad campaigns have led more parents to discuss drug use with their children (Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor, 8/21). Siblings and grandparents also were shown to have an influence on a teen's drug use decisions. Joseph Califano, president of Columbia's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which conducted the survey, said, "CASA surveys have consistently found that the family is fundamental in keeping children away from tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs" (Patrick, Los Angeles Times, 8/21).
Although the survey indicates that drug use is declining in schools, other studies have shown that drug use among teens is holding steady. According to a study by University of Michigan sociologist Lloyd Johnston, teen drug use has "stayed relatively constant" since 1997 following a sharp increase in the early 1990s (Christian Science Monitor, 8/21). In addition, 24% of teens in the Columbia survey said that drugs are "the most important problem" currently facing their age group, placing drug use above crime, peer pressure, sexuality and the environment. In addition, 43% of parents said that it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that their children would ever try illegal drugs (Toppo, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/21). In addition, 34% of teens said that marijuana is the easiest drug to procure, compared to 31% who listed cigarettes and 14% who listed alcohol. Nearly 50% of teens said they could buy marijuana in 24 hours or less, and 27% said they could purchase it in an hour or less. John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the survey responses on marijuana "should send a wake-up call to parents" that they need to discuss the dangers of marijuana with their children (Los Angeles Times, 8/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.