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Health & Parenting

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Teen Drug Use Continues to Decline


Marijuana remained the most popular illegal drug among American youth in 1999, according to the survey. But more than half of drug users had also tried heroine, cocaine, and other illegal drugs as they grew older, the survey concludes.

The survey also makes estimates about alcohol and tobacco use and presents such use by U.S. state. According to the survey, an estimated 66.8 million Americans used a tobacco product in 1999, and about 105 million used alcohol at least once during the 30 days prior to their interview. The prevalence of alcohol abuse was highest in the Northern states and the Midwest region, while the use of tobacco products was more prevalent in the South.

Illicit drug use among the general population ranged from a low of 4.7% in Virginia to a high of 10.7% in Alaska. But six of the 10 states with the highest rates were in the Western region, and eight of the 10 states with the lowest rates were in the South.

Asked about the apparent lack of association between tobacco and illegal drug use, "I would come to no conclusion," said Shalala. However, this state-by-state breakdown should help states, communities, and parents tailor their own prevention programs down the line, she said.

"The findings prove that we are successfully reversing dangerous trends and making important progress," added President Clinton in a prepared statement. The president also called on Congress to join communities, parents, teachers, and young people to help keep the rates of drug use in decline.

Among the administration's proposals is a $200 million media campaign that focuses on the use of alcohol and tobacco. While a direct relationship cannot be established between tobacco or alcohol abuse and illegal drug use, this pattern of behavior can be an entry to drug use, McCaffey explained.

Earlier this week, Clinton approved a $1.3 billion U.S. aid package for Colombia, which has been ravaged by a three-decade war involving guerrillas, paramilitary gangs, state security forces, and drug traffickers. The aid package is meant to support the war against Colombia's booming drug trade, Clinton stressed, while observing that the civil conflict is in large part funded by drug trafficking.

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