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Teens cutting back on illegal drug use, survey says

WASHINGTON -- American teenagers are cutting back on their use of illicit drugs and cigarettes, but alcohol consumption is holding steady, the government says.

An annual survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders done for the Department of Health and Human Services, found declines in many kinds of drugs for high school students, especially for ecstasy and LSD. Overall, the Bush administration said the annual survey funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed an 11 percent drop in illegal drug use in the past two years, slightly surpassing President Bush's goal of a 10 percent reduction during that period.

The survey, known as Monitoring the Future, tracked drug use and attitudes among 48,500 students from 392 schools.

There was one troubling sign: slowing declines in the use of certain drugs by eighth-graders -- and a slight increase in their use of inhalants, said Lloyd D. Johnston, who directed the study by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research.

"We should take this as a little warning because eighth-graders have been indicative of things to come in the past," Johnston said. In addition, there was an overall increase in the illicit use of the synthetic painkillers OxyContin and vicodin, reflective of patterns seen in the general population.

The survey showed a different picture of drug use from another poll of teens that also is used to measure the effectiveness of White House drug control policy. A private study by Pride Surveys in September showed illegal drug use and cigarette smoking among sixth- through 12th-graders increased slightly during the last school year compared with the year before.

But both surveys agreed that marijuana remains by far the most widely used illegal drug. Monitoring the Future reported that it had been tried at least once by 46 percent of 12th-graders and used by more than a third in the past year.

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