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Fewer teens using drugs

Drug use has edged downward among teens nationwide, with the biggest decreases driven by teens in the Midwest and South, according to a national survey on drug and alcohol use.

Children 12 to 17 years old who reported using any illicit drug in the past month declined from 11.4% to 10.9% between 2002 and 2004. States that saw the biggest declines in teen drug use were Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Carolina, Virginia and Vermont.

The study, to be released today by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), combines data from interviews of 135,500 people in 2003 and 2004 as part of the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.

The large number of interviews and the depth of the surveys offer one of the most detailed reports available on substance abuse in the USA.

Among its findings:

There were no statistically significant increases in any age group for drug use.

States with highest percentages of people ages 12 and up who reported using illicit drugs within the previous month:
Alaska 11.79%
N.M. 11.25%
R.I. 10.84%
Vt. 10.44%
Colo. 10.18%
Mass. 10.16%
N.H. 9.87%
Mont. 9.70%
D.C. 9.56%
Ore. 9.47%

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

1-Illicit drugs include marijuana, cocaine, hashish, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants and prescription drugs used for non-medical purposes.

Alcohol use ranged from a low of 29.3% in Utah to 62.1% in Wisconsin.

Among teens, the only state to see an increase in tobacco use was California, from 9.2% to 10.9%.

Among all age groups nationwide, illicit drug use remained steady, but Florida, Nevada, Washington state and Washington, D.C. showed significant declines.

Past-month use of illicit drugs including marijuana dropped from 11.6% to 9.6% in Washington, D.C.; from 8.7% to 7.8% in Florida; from 10.3% to 8.7% in Nevada; and from 10% to 8.5% in Washington state.

Washington state has increased its spending on prevention and treatment from $180 million to $300 million over five years, says Doug Allen, acting director of the division of alcohol and substance abuse for the state's Department of Social & Health Services.

"We think we're turning the corner, but you're always holding your breath," Allen said.

Alaska had the highest rate of illegal drug use in the nation for the second year in a row. Mississippi displaced Utah as the state for drug-free living.

Nearly 12% of Alaskans said they had used an illicit drug in the past month. The national average for past month drug use is about 8%.

Alaska also had high rates of pot smoking and binge drinking. One in 10 Alaskans reported past month use of pot.

Drug treatment in Alaska is in short supply. Alaska had the highest percentage of people 12 and older who needed drug treatment but did not receive it.

States should be using the data to gauge whether their prevention and treatment programs are working, said SAMHSA administrator Charles Curie.

"States can tailor an approach based on their own data," Curie said.