- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

The number of teens who have tried marijuana or used Ecstasy and LSD dropped significantly in 2003, but the overall consumption of illicit drugs and tobacco in America was largely unchanged from 2002, according to a new federal survey.

The 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows that fewer teens ages 12 to 17 have ever used marijuana — 19.6 percent instead of 20.6 percent in 2002, which officials said was a statistically significant decline because upward of 15 million people use it.

This shows that youths “are getting the message that marijuana, which is substantially more potent today than it was 20 years ago, is a dangerous drug, and they are increasingly staying away from it,” said John Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy.

Highlights of the report, released yesterday by officials with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, include:

• An estimated 19.5 million Americans were drug users in 2003. This was statistically unchanged from 2002, when 8.3 percent of the population used drugs.

• Fewer people said they used the club drug Ecstasy in the past year — 2.1 million people in 2003, compared with 3.2 million people in 2002.

• An even deeper decline occurred with LSD use — in 2003, 558,000 people said they used LSD in the past year, almost half the 1 million people who said they used LSD in 2002.

• Marijuana is still the most commonly used illegal drug, with 14.6 million current users.

“President Bush recognizes that we, as a nation, must do more to ensure that our children don’t use drugs in the first place, and to help Americans get the treatment for alcohol and drug addiction that they need,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said yesterday.

The Bush administration views investments in drug-abuse prevention and treatment programs as “a cornerstone” in its “compassionate agenda,” Mr. Thompson said, noting that the administration has asked for a 5 percent funding increase for such programs in its 2005 budget.

The NSDUH is the federal government’s retooled national survey on use of illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other substances. The new survey, which took data from more than 67,000 people ages 12 and older, is so different from past surveys that it can only be compared with the 2002 NSDUH.

The survey also said:

• The number of people ages 12 and older who had ever misused prescription drugs grew statistically, from 29.6 percent to 31.2 percent. Products misused at greater levels included Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, Percocet, Percodan, Tylox, Hydrocodone, OxyContin, methadone and Tramadol.

• Among all people age 12 and over, the numbers of binge drinkers (at least five drinks at one sitting in the last month) and heavy drinkers (binge drinking at least five times in the last month) was unchanged between 2002 and 2003. About 54 million Americans are binge drinkers and 16.1 million are heavy drinkers. The peak age for either kind of drinking is 21.

• An estimated 70.8 million Americans smoked regularly in 2003. This rate — 29.8 percent of the population — is statistically similar to the 30.4 percent of smokers seen in 2002.

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