For the third consecutive year, illegal drug use by teenagers declined slightly in 2004 — with the notable exceptions of inhalants, alcohol and the painkiller OxyContin, says a new federal survey reported by the Washington Post. Since 2001, the number of high school students who reported using an illicit drug in the past month fell 17 percent to 16.1 percent this year. Teenagers saying they had used alcohol within the past 30 days declined 7.7 percent to 33 percent, according to the “Monitoring the Future” survey. Bush administration officials said the data showed that its massive anti-drug campaign has sunk in, especially with preteens.
Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, said enormous challenges remain as young people experiment with alcohol, newer prescription medicines, and harmful fumes from household substances such as glue and cleaning products. “We still have a long way to go,” he said. Overall, high school seniors reported using a broader array of illegal substances with more frequency. Fully 70 percent of 12th-graders said they have consumed alcoholic beverages during the past year, and 52 percent reported having been drunk at least once in 2004. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, speculated that teenagers do not see the same risks in alcohol consumption as in drug abuse. Over the three decades, the trend line has resembled a roller coaster, with drug use spiking in the late 1970s and early 1980s, falling to a low of 10.5 percent in 1992 and rising again to a high of 20.6 percent in 1996.