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Teens' Illegal Drug Use Drops But Not Prescription Abuse

Marijuana leads the decline, but prescription opioid drug abuse remains high

FRIDAY, Dec. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Although illegal drug use by U.S. teens dropped from 19.4 percent in 2001 to 14.9 percent in 2006 -- a 23.2 percent decline led by decreased marijuana use -- prescription opioid drug abuse remains unacceptably high, according to the 2006 Monitoring the Future study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health.

This year's survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, included 48,460 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade from 410 public and private schools.

Past-month marijuana use for the three grades decreased from 16.6 percent in 2001 to 12.5 percent in 2006. Cigarette smoking is at its lowest point and past-month alcohol use continues to lessen, the investigators found. However, abuse of Vicodin stayed high, with almost 10 percent of high school seniors using it in the past year. Despite a 2005-2006 decline in past-year abuse of OxyContin by 12th graders (5.5 percent to 4.3 percent), no decline was seen in 8th and 10th graders. Younger students' use increased since 2002. Non-medical use of cold or cough medicine with dextromethorphan is self-reported at 4.2 percent in 8th graders, 5.3 percent in 10th graders and 6.9 percent in 12th graders.

"Past-year use of marijuana has fallen by 36 percent among 8th graders, 28 percent among 10th graders and 18 percent among 12th graders since the peak abuse years in the 1990s," said NIDA director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., in a statement. "This is great news. However, past-year use of OxyContin has almost doubled among 8th graders since 2002, and Vicodin abuse remains stubbornly high among 12th graders. We know that the job is not yet done."

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