Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Drug and Tobacco Use among US Teens Continues to Rise

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Drug and Tobacco Use among US Teens Continues to Rise

Article excerpt

The use of drugs and tobacco among high school students in the United States remains high, with more eighth and 10th graders smoking marijuana and cigarettes.

An annual government survey, conducted on behalf of the federal Department of Health and Human Services by University of Michigan researchers, also finds that more eighth graders are drinking alcohol.

It is the 22nd year that the survey has been held. HHS Secretary Donna Shalala says the findings released Thursday shows that "everyone needs to give our young people the clear and unambiguous message that drugs are illegal, dangerous, and wrong." In particular, she asserts that "marijuana today poses an increasingly serious drug-abuse problem and our children need to know that." Some experts, however, express misgivings about the annual survey, saying that the data have been used by politicians and government officials to justify harsher legal penalties that have failed to account for cyclical increases and decreases in drug abuse. Furthermore, these experts say, enforcing tougher narcotics laws has not stemmed the problem of drug abuse. "The key to understanding drug use trends is knowing that they are not entirely responsive to government policies and speech-making," says Arnold Trebach, a professor at American University in Washington and the president of the Drug Policy Foundation, a research group. "Trends fluctuate with increases followed by decreases and vice versa. More police and more prisons and more scare tactics are not going to change that fact," says Professor Trebach, who argues for a more total reevaluation of federal drug education programs. The annual "Monitoring the Future" survey involves questioning eighth, 10th, and 12th graders about their uses of drugs, tobacco and alcohol. The latest survey involved 14,824 high school seniors, 15,873 10th graders and 18,368 8th graders. …

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