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Cocaine Use Up Among Teens in Survey

June 28, 2002|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — More teenagers are using cocaine and regularly smoking and drinking, but an increasing number are also wearing seat belts and refusing to ride with a driver who's been drinking, according to a survey released Thursday.

The annual survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in schools across the country, examined the behavior of 13,600 high school students.

The survey found injury and violence-related behaviors have fallen, but kids still regularly smoke and drink--nearly half said they had consumed more than one alcoholic beverage more than once in the month before the survey.

The number of teenagers who said they had tried cocaine in their lifetime rose to 9.4%, up from 5.9% in 1991. About 4.2% of students said they had used cocaine in the last 30 days, up from 1.7% in 1991.

"We still have plenty of work to do," said Laura Kann, a researcher in the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

About 46% of teenagers said they'd had sex, down from 54% in the 1991 survey. The percentage of sexually active teenagers who had used a condom increased from 46% to 58% from 1991 to 1999, but then remained there through 2001.

That points to a failure of "abstinence-only" sex education programs favored by the White House, said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit group that supports both abstinence and birth-control education for teens.

"The implication is clear, and yet the current administration ignores it. If you give young people information about how to protect themselves, they use it," Wagoner said in a statement.

A separate survey of youths' risky behaviors by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center found that a third of 900 teens queried said they had either smoked cigarettes or marijuana, drunk alcohol or gambled for money within the last 30 days.

Results from the nationwide telephone survey of youths ages 14 to 22 were to be released Friday by the center's Institute for Adolescent Risk Communications. The survey had a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

Other findings from the CDC survey:

* The number of teenagers who said they never or rarely wore a seat belt fell from 25.9% to 14.1%.

* The number of teens who said they rode with a driver who'd been drinking fell from 39.9% to 30.7%.

* The percentage of teens in a daily physical education class fell from 41.6% in 1991 to 32.2% a decade later.

* The percentage of students who carried a weapon decreased from 26.1% in 1991 to 17.4% in 2001.

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