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Drug use among students decline Attorney General Bill Lockyer on Monday released the findings of a survey that shows overall drug use by California students has declined for the first time in a decade.

However, the preliminary findings of the Biennial California Student Survey also showed the level of excessive alcohol and drug use by heavy users remained unchanged, and the use of heroin by 11th graders has increased, according to a spokesman.

The study measured student substance use in the 1999-2000 school year by surveying 12,777 students in grades 7, 9 and 11.

Lockyer said the first substantial decline in overall alcohol and drug use is encouraging.

“Our prevention strategies appear to be reaching young people who are casual users,” Lockyer said.

However, the number of students who report using drugs or alcohol on a daily or weekly basis remains unacceptably high, he said. The level of students categorized as heavy users increased 3.6 percentage points since 1997-98, up to 37.6 percent.

“We need to devote more attention to these students before their problems escalate and threaten their future,” Lockyer said.

The survey shows that 20 percent of 7th graders, 26 percent of 9th graders and 39 percent of 11th graders reported using an illicit drug at least once in the last six months.

Spokesman Nathan Barankin said these percentages reveal a significant shift downward since the 1997-98 school year.

Marijuana use among freshmen and junior high school students has decreased substantially overall, a trend that peaked in 1995 and leveled out in 1997, Barankin said. Twenty percent of freshman and 35 percent of juniors reported using marijuana, compared with 32.5 percent and 42 percent, respectively, in the 1997-98 survey.

Barankin said the largest declines were found in alcohol use, but noted that although student alcohol consumption has fallen for the first time in 15 years, it still remains high.

Alcohol use remains the most popular substance used by students, even though levels are down at least 10 points for all grades surveyed. The study says 35 percent of 7th graders, 52 percent of 9th graders and 66 percent of 11th graders reported drinking alcohol in the last six months.

The one exception in the overall downward trend is heroin use among 11th graders, Barankin said. High school juniors reporting heroin use in the last six months increased from 1.7 percent in 1997-98 to 5.2 percent this year, and remained rare among other grades.

Lockyer said the study indicates the need for continued prevention efforts and attention in helping students with drug and alcohol programs.

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