Wednesday, August 27, 2003

BALTIMORE — Fewer Maryland students are abusing alcohol and tobacco, while marijuana use has increased slightly over the past decade, according to a survey conducted in December.

Substance abuse by Maryland youths is generally lower than the national average, but educators said they are still concerned with the findings.

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick yesterday said curbing substance abuse is an ongoing battle.

“It’s not good enough,” Mrs. Grasmick said. “And that’s why our work is not nearly finished. It’s good news, but it’s not completed work.”

First lady Kendel Ehrlich told educators that parents need to get in the fight for drug-free schools. She said parents should recognize they have influence over their children.

“The problem is still very deep,” Mrs. Ehrlich said. “When you have to take a survey that includes sixth-graders doing drugs and/or alcohol, that should be unsettling for all of us. And I know that it is.”

The only numbers that have increased in the past decade are for marijuana use among Maryland eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders, but the report shows the numbers coincide with the increasing national average.

About 17 percent of 10th-graders said they smoked pot during the month before the survey, compared with 11.8 percent in 1992.

Twenty-one percent of seniors smoked pot in the 30 days before the survey, a 4 percentage-point increase in a decade.

About 44 percent of Maryland’s 12th-graders reported drinking alcohol during the month before the survey, and about 29 percent reported binge drinking, having five or more servings at one sitting. In 1992, 52.9 percent of seniors reported drinking.

Cigarette smoking showed some of the biggest decreases in the report, with only 1.3 percent of sixth-graders smoking in the 30 days before the survey. In 1992, that was 4.7 percent.

About one-fifth of seniors smoked in the month before the survey, compared to about a third in 1992.

Maryland is still above the national average in 12th-grade Ecstasy use, but the number of students using the drug has decreased since 2001.

Educators surveyed about 34,000 students from 325 schools in the state.

The confidential survey asked sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students about their use of substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, LSD, crack, Ritalin, Ecstasy and steroids, as well as their knowledge of the drugs and their availability.

Educators said they expect exaggerations from some students and that erratic responses are thrown out.

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