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Attorney General Lockyer Announces Decline in Substance Use among Students, Even Excessive Users

Tenth Biennial Study Sees Abstinence Go Up; But Teen Dating Violence Up
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today released the results of the 10th Biennial California Student Survey (CSS), which shows decreases in tobacco, drug and alcohol use by students in the seventh, ninth and 11th grades during 2003 and 2004.

"This is good news. Not only is the number of 11th graders who are described as ‘heavy users' declining for the first time since 1999, the survey shows that the rate of abstinence among seventh and ninth graders is at an all-time high," Lockyer said. "Research tells us the longer teens delay their substance use, the better chance they have of not becoming regular users of illicit drugs or engaging in risky behavior."

Among the 2003-2004 findings, the CSS indicates the rise in substance use seen during the early- and mid-1990s appears to have ended, with use in some key areas declining or remaining stable. Fewer students reported consuming alcohol and, to a lesser extent, using marijuana during the six months prior to taking the survey.

In the six months prior to taking the survey, alcohol use by seventh graders dropped 3 percentage points, from 29 percent to 26 percent, but remained relatively stable for ninth and 11th graders. Drug use remained steady at about 13% for seventh graders, but dropped two percentage points (from 25.4 percent to 23.3 percent) among ninth graders, and almost five percentage points (from 38.7 percent to 33.9 percent).

During the six months prior to the survey, fewer students reported using marijuana, which remains the most used substance following alcohol. Six percent of seventh graders, down from 7.2 percent, and 18.8 percent of ninth graders, down from 19.3 percent reported using marijuana during the past six months. Among 11th graders, the number dropped almost 4 percentage points, from 34 percent to 30.5 percent.

The survey also shows a drop during the six months prior to the survey in use by older students of Ecstasy, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), a drug popular among teens at all-night dance parties known as "raves."

"Surveys like the California Student Survey help us direct our precious dollars," said Kathryn P. Jett, director of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. "Based on the results of the last survey, we focused our efforts on reducing Ecstasy use by launching a public awareness campaign and we are pleased that fewer students are using Ecstasy."

The 2003-2004 CSS reports rates of abstinence, or no alcohol or drug use, are at the highest levels ever for all three grades: 70 percent of seventh graders, 49 percent of ninth graders and 35 percent of 11th graders have not used any alcohol or drugs in the past six months prior to the survey.

"The increased rate of abstinence is especially encouraging, " said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. "The Department of Education is committed to recommending proven, science-based prevention programs and positive youth development activities to our schools. We'd like to believe these programs have helped produce these encouraging results."

The 10th CSS also probed violence at schools, including teen dating violence. Among all ninth and 11th graders, 5 percent of ninth graders and 8 percent of 11th graders reported at least one incident of relationship violence, defined as having been hit, slapped or physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend within the past 12 months. For 11th graders, this was slightly higher than the 7 percent they reported in the 2001-2002.

The survey does not suggest that alcohol or drug use causes violence or victimization. However, the results illustrate that youths characterized by one risk behavior are more likely to be exposed to violence. For example, among 11th graders, 14 percent of those who used alcohol excessively and 18 percent of those who were high-risk drug users reported being victims of teen dating violence, compared to 5 percent of those who said they abstained from alcohol or drug use.

Among ninth graders, 45 percent of excessive alcohol users and 54 percent of high-risk drug users said they had been in a physical fight at school, versus 30 percent of the moderate drug users and 17 percent of those who abstain. For 11th graders, 31 percent of excessive alcohol users and 39.5 percent of high-risk drug users said they had been in a fight at school, versus 22 percent of moderate drug users and 10 percent of abstainers.

The data shows 15 percent of the 11th graders reported smoking cigarettes in the 30 days prior to taking the survey, down 4 percentage points from 19 percent in 2001-2002. The survey also shows that students reported a drop in drinking and driving, which includes being driven by a friend who has been drinking. Binge drinking, defined as consuming five drinks in a row during the past 30 days, increased slightly among seventh graders (from 3 percent to 4 percent), but dropped among ninth graders (from 13 percent to 11.5 percent) and 11th graders (from 26 percent to 23 percent).

Conducted every two years since 1985, the CSS is sponsored by the Attorney General's Office to measure substance and alcohol use by California youths. Co-sponsored by the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and the Department of Education, the 2003-2004 survey measured responses of 10,351 randomly-selected students in 112 middle and high schools between September 2003 to February 2004. More information on the results are available on the Attorney General's Crime and Violence Prevention Center webpage at http://www.safestate.org/index.cfm?navid=254.

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