Teenagers’ use of illicit drugs continued to decline in 2005, with sharp drops in the use of methamphetamines and steroids, an annual national survey reported yesterday.
Misuse of household products, which some teens inhale, and prescription drugs, which teens obtain in homes or over the Internet, were areas of renewed concern, government officials said.
The overall decline in teen drug use is “quite remarkable news,” Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said at a press conference on the 30th Monitoring the Future survey.
The federally funded survey, based at the University of Michigan, involves nearly 50,000 students in grades eight, 10 and 12.
It showed that in 2005, 21.4 percent of eighth-graders, 38.2 percent of 10th-graders and 50.4 percent of 12th-graders used illicit drugs, including marijuana. The figures mark the ninth year of modest decreases in lifetime drug use for eighth-graders and six years of modest decreases for the older grades.
Teen use of methamphetamines fell significantly in the two upper grades, while teen use of steroids fell modestly in every age group.
However, illicit use of prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet appears to be slowly growing: In 2005, 5.5 percent of 12th-graders, 3.2 percent of 10th-graders and 1.8 percent of eighth-graders said they have used these powerful drugs without medical supervision.
“Considering the addictive potential of [OxyContin], these are disturbingly high rates of use,” said Lloyd Johnston, the survey’s principal investigator.
Inhalant abuse, in which teens sniff toxic and sometimes deadly fumes from household products, increased among 10th- and 12th-graders.
John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, credited anti-drug media campaigns for helping tamp down teen drug use and urged Congress to allocate more funding for these efforts.
The campaigns buttress parental and community efforts, “and they need to continue and they need to continue forcefully,” Mr. Walters said.
Karen P. Tandy, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said her agency was actively curtailing drug production and trafficking, including “rogue Internet pharmacies” that fill drug orders for people without prescriptions.
Cigarette smoking fell to its lowest level in the survey’s history, with 25.9 percent of eighth-graders, 38.9 percent of 10th-graders and 50 percent of 12th-graders saying they have smoked. In 1991, the figures were 44 percent, 55.1 percent and 63.1 percent, respectively.
Use of alcohol was down, with 41 percent of eighth-graders, 63.2 percent of 10th-graders and 75.1 percent of 12th-graders saying they have had “more than a few sips” of an alcoholic beverage.
Use of the stimulant Ecstasy fell in all age groups, especially among 12th-graders.