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Youth Drug Use Turns Down, Says Annual Household Survey


August 1997

The 1996 "National Household Survey on Drug Abuse" released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows a decline in illicit drug use among teens 12-17 years old. The rate of teenage drug use within the month preceding the survey for all illicit drugs declined from 10.9 percent in 1995 to 9.0 percent in 1996.

The survey shows that marijuana is by far the drug most widely used by illicit drug users. (Of course, the use of alcohol by juveniles is illegal but much more widespread, 49.8% use in the past month.) Past month use of marijuana dropped for teens between the ages of 12 to 17 from 8.2% in 1995 to 7.1% in 1996. Youth heroin use in the past year decreased from 0.6% in 1995 to 0.3% in 1996. Past year use of cocaine by 12- to 17-year-olds decreased fron 1.7% in 1995 to 1.4% in 1996.

Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services, greeted the report cautiously and warned that "illicit drug use is still unacceptably high, but there is a glimmer of hope ... The message of the statistics we report today [August 6] is: This is no time to underfund these programs. This is the time to step forward and continue the momentum we have created."

Articles referenced for this report include: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "Overall Drug Use Levels Stay the Same; Possible Decrease in Youth Drug Use," Press Release, August 6, 1997; Christopher Wren, "Fewer Youths Report Smoking Marijuana," New York Times, August 7, 1997, p. A16; Kevin Johnson, "Report: Youth Marijuana Use Shows Slight Decline," USA TODAY, August 6, 1997, p. 3A; Heather Knight, "The Bright, Dark Side of Drug Use by Adolescents," Los Angeles Times (Washington Edition), August 7, 1997, p. A7; Robert Suro, "Dip In Youth Drug Use Hailed by Officials as Sign of Hope," The Washington Post, August 7, 1997, p. A4.

A copy of the survey is located on-line at, or a copy can be obtained by contacting SAMHSA at (301) 443-8956.