New studies show that fewer schoolchildren are experimenting with drugs, good news for the Clinton administration, which has spent $1 billion on a campaign to counter drug abuse.
Drug use among schoolchildren dropped for the third year in a row, bringing it back to levels last seen in 1993, according to the Pride Survey, which questioned 114,318 sixth- to 12th-graders during the 1999-2000 school year. Declining drug use also was reported in the recently released 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.
The twin findings prompted Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to declare that his agency's prevention strategy was working. "This is the biggest payoff on a modest investment American society could make," said McCaffrey, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran and expert on narcotics trafficking who was appointed to the White House drug czar position in early 1996.
The Clinton administration's anti-drug strategy includes a $1 billion media campaign and the expansion of key drug-prevention elements: community anti-drug coalitions, drug courts and treatment facilities.
The Pride Survey, formerly known as Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education, has been querying junior-high and high-school students for 13 years. In its 1999-2000 report, the Atlanta-based organization found that 23.6 percent of students said they had used an illicit drug at least once -- a significant drop from the previous school year, when 27.1 percent of students said they had used a drug at least once. Meanwhile, the federal government's 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, which interviewed 67,000 people age 12 and older, found that 9 percent of teens said they had used an illegal drug in the previous month -- down from 9.9 percent in 1998.
The 1990s saw steady growth in teen drug use. The problem peaked in the 1996-97 school year, when more than 30 percent of teens said they used drugs at least once during the year.
The 1999-2000 Pride Survey also found that:
* Drug use fell most significantly among junior-high-school students 13.6 percent said they had used an illicit drug, compared with 16.3 percent in the previous year. Among 12th-graders, the figure was unchanged, with 40.2 percent last year and this year saying they had used an illicit drug.
* The percentage of students who said they carried a gun to school fell to 2.7 percent, down from 3.3 …