Dangerous drugs on upswing again, watchdog warns


Washington -- America is seeing a "new wave of adolescent involvement in dangerous drugs," according to a nationwide student survey.

The private drug-prevention group PRIDE, which released the survey yesterday, warned that the new rise in illicit drug use could be connected with violent behavior such as carrying guns and joining gangs.

Drug use by students declined steadily for about 15 years, but in the past few years has turned up again, said Thomas Gleaton, president of Atlanta-based PRIDE.

Marijuana use is leading the resurgence, especially among African-Americans, the study found.

Among black males in senior high school, marijuana use jumped from 19 percent to 29 percent in 1993-94 from the previous year. Marijuana use among all senior high students rose by 5.6 percentage points to 24.6 percent, the biggest increase of all the drugs in the survey.

Mr. Gleaton noted that the growing usage and increasing potency of marijuana creates a "double whammy." Three times as many students who smoked marijuana said they were likely to get "very high" than did beer drinkers.

Student use of cocaine, hallucinogens, uppers, downers and inhalants also increased significantly last year, according to PRIDE. Alcohol use dropped slightly or remained level, the report said.

The group's report was based on 200,000 questionnaires completed anonymously by junior high and senior high students in 34 states.

The survey found a relationship between drug use and violent behavior. Students who reported carrying a gun to school, taking part in a gang or threatening to hurt someone were far more likely to have abused liquor or drugs, it found.

"The PRIDE data confirms what we all know intuitively: that guns and drugs go hand in hand," said Lee Brown, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Mr. Gleaton cautioned people not to view the study as a failure of drug prevention programs. Students in the survey who said their parents spoke to them about drugs were less likely to use drugs, as were students involved in community drug prevention programs such as midnight basketball, he said.

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