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Drug Use Shifts

A new government report shows fewer young people in America using drugs like marijuana, Ecstasy, and LSD - good news indeed, and some evidence that antidrug campaigns continue to work.

The 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released last week, found a 5 percentage point decline in the number of 12- to 17-year-olds who had ever tried marijuana from 2002, and a 30 percentage point decline in the number of 12- and 13-year-olds who had used the drug within a month of the survey.

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But the study also found smoking and drinking levels remained disturbingly static. Fifty-four million kids and adults binged on alcohol at least once before taking the survey, and only an estimated 3.3 million of those were treated. The study also confirms a troubling trend - a rise in the abuse of prescription drugs. In fact, 32.1 million Americans over age 12 reported using a prescription drug for a non-medical (read: recreational) use - up from 29.6 million the year before.

Society must sound greater warnings about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs, and work to develop more effective education and drug-treatment programs for youths and adults. States also can create better ways of monitoring pharmacies that dispense controlled substances.