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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today released the results of the Ninth Biennial California Student Survey that found more than 10 percent of high school juniors have tried Ecstasy, a drug popular among youngsters at all-night dance parties. The survey, which measured Ecstasy use for the first time, also found the use of other drugs, alcohol and tobacco remained steady among high school students, but dropped slightly for young teens.
"The good news is that 7th-graders are not drinking, using drugs and smoking as much as they have in the past,' Lockyer said. 'Studies show that the longer teens delay that type of behavior, the better chance they have of never using these drugs. But we are concerned that heavy drinking and drug use among older high school students remain unacceptably high. I am committed to working with our partners in education and drug abuse prevention to reduce risky behavior by our youth.'
The biennial survey measured substance abuse by students in the 7th, 9th and 11th grades during the years 2001-2002. The survey found promising declines in the prevalence of alcohol consumption and, to a lesser extent, cigarette smoking in all of the surveyed grades, especially 7th.
The survey found Ecstacy is, by a slight margin, the most popular drug after marijuana, although at a much lower rate. Ecstacy, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), is popular among youngsters at 'raves,' or all-night dance parties. Among 9th and 11th graders, 6 percent and 11 percent, respectively, have ever tried the drug. Two percent of 7th graders, 5 percent of 9th graders and 9 percent of 11th graders reported using Ecstasy in the past six months.
"Ecstasy is becoming one of the major drugs used by today's youth, ' said Kathryn P. Jett, director of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. 'In response, the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs plans to kick off a statewide media campaign focusing on Ecstasy and other ‘club drugs.''
The survey probed violence, including relationship or intimate partner violence and abuse. Among 9th graders who reported having a boyfriend or girlfriend, 8.5 percent reported they had been hit, slapped or physically hurt by him/her within the past 12 months; 10.4 percent of 11th graders reported similar abuse.
Although the survey does not suggest that drug use causes violence or victimization, the results illustrate that students with one risk behavior are likely to have others. For example, among 11th graders, 11 percent of those who said they used alcohol excessively and 15 percent of those who said they were high-risk drug users reported being victims of violence, compared to 5 percent of those who said they abstained from alcohol or drug use. Among 9th graders, 49 percent of excessive alcohol users and 58 percent of high-risk drug users said they had been in a physical fight at school, versus 27 percent of the moderate drug users and 14 percent of those who abstain.
Excessive use is defined as liking to get drunk, having more than five drinks in a row or having been very drunk or sick three or more times in the past. High-risk drug use is defined as regular use of marijuana or use of cocaine or other illegal drugs.
According to the survey, alcohol remains the most popular substance used by students, but its use declined more than other substances, especially in the 7th and 11th grades. The 2001-2002 survey showed 30 percent of 7th graders, 50 percent of 9th graders and 63 percent of 11th graders reported using alcohol within the past six months, compared to 35 percent, 52 percent and 66 percent, respectively, in 1999-2000.
The survey also indicates that students reported a drop in drinking and driving, which includes being driven by a friend who has been drinking. Students in the 11th grade, an age at which most begin driving, reported a drop from 36 percent in 1999-2000, to 30 percent. Binge drinking, defined as consuming five drinks in a row during the past 30 days, decreased among 7th graders from 6 percent in 1999 to 3 percent. But it remained stable among 9th graders (13 percent) and 11th graders (26 percent).
Smoking cigarettes also showed a moderate decline, with only 4 percent of 7th graders reporting smoking within the past 30 days, compared to 7 percent in 1999-2000. The percentage of 9th graders who reported smoking cigarettes within the past month dropped from 13 percent to 11 percent; the rates for 11th graders dropped from 21 percent to 19 percent.
Marijuana use in 2001-2002 remained similar to the 1999-2000 levels. Reported use of marijuana within the past six months declined 2 percent among 7th graders (from 9 percent to 7 percent) and remained stable for 9th and 11th graders at 19 percent and 34 percent, respectively.
"Research shows us that a strong school environment that promotes caring relationships, high expectations and opportunities for meaningful participation by students reduces high-risk behaviors and promotes academic success,' said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. 'We need to continue our focus on broad-based prevention strategies combined with interventions where needed.'
Conducted every two years since 1985, the survey 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 2001-2002 survey measured responses of 8,238 randomly-selected students in 113 middle and high schools between November 2001 and February 2002. Full preliminary results are available online at http://safestate.org/index.cfm?navid=254.