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1995 NIDA Media Advisories

Embargoed for Release: Friday, December 15, 1995
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

Annual Survey Shows Increases in Tobacco and Drug Use by Youth

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today released the 21st annual Monitoring the Future Survey, which surveys the use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.

According to this year's survey, 48.4 percent of high school seniors had used an illicit drug at least once in their lifetimes, an unacceptably high level, but still far below the peak of 65.6 percent in 1981. Rates of cigarette smoking increased among high school seniors, with 64.2 percent reporting lifetime use of cigarettes, up from 62 percent in 1994. Rates of lifetime alcohol use among seniors remained high at 80.7 percent.

In reporting the survey findings, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala noted that December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Month and challenged parents and all caring adults to open a dialogue with young people about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Secretary Shalala said, "We have a generation at risk -- a generation that needs to hear clear and consistent messages from all adults that using drugs, alcohol, and tobacco can ruin their lives. This holiday season, parents should make a special effort to set their children straight about the dangers of smoking, drinking and using drugs."

Secretary Shalala said, "The Clinton administration is fighting for our children. That is why we have proposed a powerful new initiative to prevent young people from using tobacco. That is why we have developed a tough, comprehensive anti-drug strategy. And that is why the President will hold a White House conference on youth drug use and violence in January, 1996. These are strong steps for keeping young Americans healthy and drug-free -- and they make a lot more sense than the reckless budget cuts in services for children and families that the Congress has proposed."

Lee Brown, Ph.D., Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said, "We need all Americans to lock arms and send a clear and consistent message to all young people: Drugs are illegal, dangerous, unhealthy and wrong. When my daughter was a teenager, I told her that I would check her room to make sure there were no illegal substances. I also waited up for her while she was out with her friends. She told me that these actions annoyed her, but I did them because she was precious to me. Now she is married and a successful adult. This is an example of the kind of 'tough love' that parents need to do more of."

Deputy Secretary of Education Madeleine Kunin said that the survey shows "this certainly is no time to cut funding for Safe and Drug-Free Schools by 60 percent, as Congress has proposed. But schools can only be part of the solution. This is a tragedy among our nation's youth that requires immediate attention from schools, communities, governments and -- most importantly -- parents. Parents must have high expectations for their children, be involved in their lives and education, and send the message that young people cannot compete and succeed if they use drugs. That is why we have made family involvement the cornerstone of our agenda."

This year's survey showed significant increases in smoking among 10th and 12th graders. Rates of cigarette smoking among 12th graders increased for lifetime, current use (at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey), and daily prevalence measures between 1994 and 1995. For 10th graders, current and daily use of cigarettes increased, while at the same time, there was a decrease in the percentage of 10th graders believing there is great risk in smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day. Among African American 10th graders, there has been a significant increase in those who have smoked in the past 30 days, from 6.6 percent in 1992 to 11.5 percent in 1995.

Use of marijuana climbed in 1995. Between 1994 and 1995, lifetime and past year use of this drug increased among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.

This was the third consecutive increase in lifetime and past year use among 10th and 12th graders and the fourth for 8th graders. Despite the increase, rates in 1995 are still far below the peak year, 1979, when 60.4 percent of high school seniors had used marijuana at least once.

The increases in use are tied to decreases in students' perceptions about the dangers of drug use. The 1995 survey shows decreases in the percentage of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders believing there is "great risk" in occasionally smoking marijuana. As with tobacco, there was also a decrease in the percentage of 10th and 12th graders perceiving "great risk" in using marijuana regularly.

Secretary Shalala said, "We know that there continues to be a glorification of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use in popular culture. All of us -- parents, teachers, caregivers, government officials, and members of the media -- must work harder to spread the word to young Americans that drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are not healthy and not 'cool'."

Other survey findings include:

  • Overall the proportion of 8th graders taking any illicit drug in the 12 months prior to the survey reached 21.4 percent in this year's survey. The comparable figure was 33.3 percent for 10th graders and 39.0 percent for 12th graders.

  • Lifetime use of marijuana increased by over 3 percentage points from 1994 to 1995 for each of the three grades surveyed. In 1995, 19.9 percent of 8th graders, 34.1 percent of 10th graders, and 41.7 percent of 12th graders reported having used marijuana at least once in their lives. The survey also found that 34.7 percent of high school seniors, 28.7 percent of 10th graders, and 15.8 percent of 8th graders had used marijuana in the past year, up from 30.7, 25.2, and 13.0 percent in 1994, respectively.

  • While overall rates are low, there was a significant increase in annual and current use of LSD among 10th and 12th graders. The percentage of 10th graders reporting use of LSD in the past year increased from 5.2 percent to 6.5 percent and among 12th graders, annual use increased from 6.9 percent to 8.4 percent.

  • Use of inhalants remains high, especially among 8th graders. The percentage of 8th graders reporting having used inhalants at least once in their lifetime rose from 19.9 percent in 1994 to 21.6 percent in 1995. For 8th graders, lifetime rates of inhalant use are higher than rates of marijuana use. In addition, use of inhalants has been consistently higher among 8th graders than among 12th graders.

  • Rates for lifetime, annual, and 30 day prevalence of alcohol use remained level between 1994 and 1995. Daily drinking among 12th graders increased from 2.9 percent to 3.5 percent, but among 8th graders, daily alcohol use decreased from 1.0 percent in 1994 to 0.7 percent in 1995.

  • The percentage of 12th graders reporting current use of cigarettes increased from 31.2 percent in 1994 to 33.5 percent in 1995 and daily smoking increased from 19.4 percent to 21.6 percent. Among 10th graders, current use increased from 25.4 percent to 27.9 percent and daily use increased from 14.6 percent to 16.3 percent between 1994 and 1995.

There were continued decreases in both beliefs about the harmfulness of the various drugs and in peer disapproval of drug use.

  • There was a decrease in the percentage of students in all grades reporting "great risk" in trying crack once or twice.

  • There was a continuing decrease in the percentage of 8th graders who disapprove of people who try marijuana or LSD once or twice or who take LSD regularly.

  • There was an increase in the percentage of students at each grade level reporting their perception that it is fairly or very easy to get marijuana.

  • The survey also found increases in the proportion of 8th graders reporting that they believed it would be fairly easy or very easy to get marijuana, LSD, crack, heroin, and amphetamines.

The Monitoring the Future Survey is conducted under a NIDA grant to the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Under the direction of Dr. Lloyd Johnston, the survey was administered in the spring of 1995 to a national probability sample of 15,876 high school seniors, 17,285 10th graders and 17,929 8th graders in public and private schools. The study has been conducted annually since 1975, with 1995 representing the 21st annual survey of high school seniors and the 5th year data have been collected on 8th and 10th grade students.

Embargoed for Release: Thursday, December 14, 1995
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

Immunization Found To Effectively Block Effects of Cocaine

Researchers funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, report that they have successfully immunized rats against many of the stimulant effects of cocaine. Cocaine was prevented from entering the brain when rats were "vaccinated" with a substance that triggers the body to produce antibodies to cocaine. These antibodies then acted as biological "sponges" to which cocaine binds, thereby reducing the amount available in the blood to reach the brain. The results of this research are presented in "Suppression of Psychoactive Effects of Cocaine by Active Immunization" in the December 14, 1995 issue of Nature.

Researchers, Kim Janda, Ph.D., Rocio Carrera, M.A., George Koob, Ph.D and colleagues at The Scripps Research Institute demonstrated a greater than 70% reduction in cocaine in the brains of rats inoculated with the antibody-producing compound as compared to a group which was not inoculated. Researchers designed the compound so that the antibodies produced would respond specifically to the cocaine molecule yet not affect normal brain chemistry.

"This is an exciting breakthrough for drug abuse treatment research" said Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Developing medications for the treatment of cocaine addiction is very high among the Nation's greatest needs in dealing with its drug problem, and it is NIDA's number one priority. Dr. Janda's research gives the scientific and medical fields a very promising new direction in the search for a safe means of blocking the damaging effects of crack and cocaine."

In the study, Dr. Janda and colleagues used an "active immunization" approach by developing a substance that when administered to rats would trigger the immune system to produce antibodies that are specific for the cocaine molecule. The researchers inoculated the rats over a 35 day period and then tested their responses to cocaine. The immunized animals showed significantly lower responses to the stimulant effects of cocaine than normal animals because the immunization prevented much of the cocaine from getting to the brain. Cocaine concentrations in the brain tissue of the immunized animals were found to be dramatically less than the concentrations of cocaine in brain tissue of controls.

Other immunotherapy research for drug abuse treatment has explored the use of catalytic antibodies and other external agents that can be used to treat cocaine dependence. The research reported in Nature differs by inducing the production of antibodies which remain in the bloodstream for an extended period of time and block cocaine's effects after it is used.

Dr. Koob said, "The potential advantage of such an approach is that immunization should have none of the side effects associated with medications that interfere directly with parts of the brain responsible for cocaine's action." Dr. Janda added, The importance of our work is that we bring together three separate disciplines: chemistry, immunology and neuropsychopharmacology, to offer a sound scientific approach for the treatment of cocaine abuse."

The researchers identified a number of issues which must be explored before this approach is ready for clinical trials. It is not clear how long the immunization would remain effective in the bloodstream, nor what the effects of repeated immunization (boosters) would be. In addition, there are questions about the dangers of people taking higher doses of cocaine to overcome the effectiveness of the immunization as well as bioethics about the use of vaccinations for drug treatment.

"While we are in the initial phase of this very interesting research, it opens up a whole new range of possibilities. One long term goal would be to use this type of research to develop a medication capable of immunizing cocaine users and addicts against the effects of cocaine," Dr. Leshner added.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary federal agency responsible for basic, clinical, and applied research designed to improve and develop new strategies to deal with the health problems and issues associated with drug abuse and addiction. The development of new medications for treating drug addictions is a major part of NIDA's efforts.

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