Marijuana use among Baltimore City and Baltimore County students has increased in the past two years, according to a statewide report on drugs, alcohol and smoking that one county official described as a "wake-up call."
In a 1992 survey, 8.2 percent of eighth-graders and 33.7 percent of the 12th-graders had tried marijuana in Baltimore County schools. By last year, those numbers had jumped to 22.9 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
In 1992, 5.2 percent of city eighth-graders reported trying marijuana, but two years later, 24.3 percent said they had tried it. In the 12th-grade, 25.2 percent of city students said they had tried marijuana in 1992, but two years later, 36.1 percent of seniors said they had tried it.
The city and county statistics follow state and national trends that show students are using drugs more frequently and at younger ages, school officials said.
Students at county middle and high schools smoked cigarettes and marijuana at slightly higher rates than their peers around Maryland, and alcohol use was higher for 10th and 12th graders, the report said.
In the city, students generally reported smoking cigarettes and drinking at lower rates than their Maryland peers. One exception was drug use by sixth-graders, suggesting city students are introduced to drugs at an earlier age.
Michael Gimbel, executive director of the county's Office of Substance Abuse, said students seem to be turning from alcohol to marijuana and LSD.
"This [survey] will be a wake-up call. We have to send a consistent message of no-use," he said.
More Baltimore students than county students reported they had tried cigarettes and marijuana by sixth grade, according to the Maryland Adolescent Survey, a biennial survey that sampled students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades.
The report, drawn from a drug and alcohol abuse survey of 18,205 students, concluded that statewide, alcohol was the most frequently used substance -- and the category for beer, wine and wine coolers had the highest percentage of seniors at NTC 76.3 percent.
In the county, that figure was slightly higher than the state average at 78.1 percent; the city's responses showed a lesser figure, 63 percent.
Slightly more than 18 percent of the county's sixth-graders had "ever used" beer and wine, the report said, while 7.6 percent imbibed in the 30 days preceding the survey.
In the city, 29.9 percent of sixth-graders surveyed said they had "ever used" beer or wine and 16.3 percent had partaken in the 30 days before the survey. Statewide, those numbers were 18.8 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively.
More than 78 percent of the county's 12th-graders had consumed beer or wine and 53 percent had done so in the past 30 days. In the city, 63 percent of seniors had ever consumed beer or wine, 31.5 percent in the 30 days before the survey. Statewide, 76 percent of the 12th-graders had imbibed, with 50.8 percent doing so in the past month, according to the survey.
Among high school seniors statewide, 42 percent reported they had tried marijuana -- 44 percent in Baltimore County and 36 percent in Baltimore City.
Among eighth-graders, 19 percent statewide had tried marijuana -- 22.9 percent in the county and 24.3 percent in the city.