Points to New Study That Says Youth Drug Use Is Down

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The latest findings of a study of drug, tobacco, and alcohol use by children today indicates drug use has declined for the third-straight year, and the White House "drug czar" pointed to the effectiveness of a youth anti-drug media campaign.

John Walters, who heads the White House Office

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of National Drug Control Policy, today said the study's findings justifies additional spending on his agency's anti-drug campaign.

Official annual survey
The "Monitoring the Future" study, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is the government's official annual survey of teen drug, alcohol and cigarette use. Begun in 1975 with high school seniors, the survey was expanded and this year surveyed 49,474 students in 406 secondary schools in eighth, 10th and 12th grades.

"This is great news [but] we still need to follow through. There are still too many people using drugs," Mr. Walters said, noting that drug use still hasn't dropped to its historic low recorded in 1991 and 1992.

The creative for the youth campaign comes from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding, New York, is the ONDCP's new agency. Media companies who accept the the ONDCP's advertising have to provide a free ad for every paid message.

Helps shape attitudes
"The media campaign is an important tool to help shape attitudes. ... We want to make sure that it's not a fire drill but a sustained responsibility in a civilized society," Mr. Walters said.

The end-of-the-year announcement comes after Congress cut the ad campaign by nearly a third this year because of concerns about its effectiveness.

Mr. Walters said he would work to increase funding for the campaign and that the advertising aimed at preventing use was integral to a multifaceted attack on drugs that includes enforcement and programs to treat drug users.

Lloyd Johnston, the University of Michigan researcher who conducted the study for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, also said the advertising was one of the reasons for the declining drug rate.

Eighth-grade students
Today's report said the proportion of high-school students using any illicit drugs in the past year continued a gradual decline, while the number of eighth-grade students using drugs has declined by a third since 1996. It reported that marijuana use in the past month and overall drug use in the past month is also down in all grades. The only bad news in the report was that inhalant use was up slightly as was use of prescription pain killer OxyContin.

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