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OC HIGH / STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : 1 in 4 Students Are Heavy Drinkers; Other Drug Use Rising, Study Finds

July 15, 1994|From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — More than one in four California high school students are heavy drinkers by their junior year, and teen use of other drugs is on the rise, according to a state study released in June. A survey of 5,655 students in public junior high and high schools found fewer youths trying cocaine compared to eight years ago. But after declining usage among California teens in the late 1980s, drugs such as amphetamines, marijuana and LSD are on the rebound.

Use of the psychedelic LSD more than doubled among 11th-graders since 1985-86, with 12% having tried it at least once in the previous six months.

The study, commissioned by the state attorney general's office and the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, was conducted last November through February at 100 schools.

The survey asked seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders about their use of alcohol and a dozen other types of drugs. The margins of error ranged up to plus or minus 3%.

Officials attributed increases in drug use, in part, to cutbacks in drug-prevention education programs.

Nearly 40% of ninth-graders and 36% of 11th-graders surveyed said they had not taken an alcohol or drug prevention class in the previous year.

Teen drinking has remained relatively stable, but alcohol remains by far the most widely used drug.

The study found 53.1% of seventh-graders, 68.6% of ninth-graders and 74.3% of 11th-graders having had at least one drink in the previous six months.

Twenty-nine percent of high school juniors and 21% of freshmen were classified as "excessive alcohol users." That group included those who had consumed five or more drinks in a row at least twice in the previous two weeks, had gotten very drunk or sick at least three times in their lives, or drank to get drunk.

Similarly, 28.1% of 11th-graders and 23% of ninth-graders were described as "high-risk drug users" who used marijuana or other drugs frequently, mixed their drugs or tried cocaine.

Among 11th-graders, 40.6% said they had driven a car after drinking or been in a car with friends who were drinking and driving. That was up from 35% four years ago.

Nearly 30% of 11th-graders, 20% of ninth-graders and 6.5% of seventh-graders said they had been high on alcohol or other drugs while at school.

Among juniors, 41% said they had been very drunk or sick after drinking, 13% had passed out and 16% had forgotten what happened.

After declines in reported drug use in the late 1980s, the survey found overall drug use had nearly rebounded to levels observed when the study started eight years ago.

Cocaine use dropped, but marijuana, inhalants and LSD showed significant increases in the past two years.

Marijuana was the most commonly used drug after alcohol.

Forty percent of 11th-graders and 30.4% of ninth-graders said they had tried marijuana, up from 29.4% and 19.4%, respectively, in 1991-92. Sniffing inhalants, such as nitrous oxide or aerosols, nearly doubled to 21.5% of ninth-graders.

LSD use increased from 12.2% of 11th-graders and 8.6% of ninth-graders, up from 6% and 4.1%, respectively, eight years ago.

The state has conducted the student drug and alcohol use survey every other year since 1985-86.

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