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Teen drug use mostly declining

A worrisome note in the state report for 2004: Why is depressant abuse by girls on the rise?

Associated Press
Published January 6, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - Teenage use of most drugs in Florida continued to decline in 2004, Gov. Jeb Bush said Thursday, citing results of an annual survey of middle and high school students.

Teen use of 18 of the 21 drugs on the survey dropped. State officials credited educational programs and targeted law enforcement for the decline.

Most types of drug misuse by teens had dropped steadily over the previous four years.

Also Thursday, Bush said he would ask lawmakers to increase spending on drug control and prevention by more than 6 percent next year. His proposed budget, which lawmakers will consider in the spring, will include a proposal to boost drug control spending to $309-million, including an $11.7-million increase for Department of Children and Families treatment programs.

"Clearly, the governor understands that funding substance abuse treatment is a sound investment which studies show saves the state $7 for every $1 invested," John Daigle, director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, said in a statement.

Referring to the survey, the governor said too many teens say they drink alcohol, and the number of teens abusing prescription drugs is a worry.

The percentage of students who said that they had an alcoholic drink in the 30 days before the survey ticked up slightly in 2004 to just over 30 percent. The trend over the last four years for alcohol use is about steady, while trend lines for other types of drugs are going significantly downward.

Increasing use of another type of drug also stands out.

"The one area that concerns me a great deal is depressant use going up and it's almost all girls," said James McDonough, the state's drug control chief. "We've got to do something about it."

Between 2000 and 2004 the percentage of surveyed students who said they have taken depressants rose from about 5 to about 7 percent. The increase was most marked among girls. McDonough said the research wasn't clear on the reason.

Depressants include tranquilizers or antianxiety drugs, such as Valium or Xanax.

The trend toward abuse of prescription drugs by teens is a national one.

"The explosion in the prescription of addictive opioids, depressants and stimulants has, for many children, made the medicine cabinet a greater temptation and threat than the illegal street drug dealer," Joseph Califano, president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, wrote last year.

[Last modified January 6, 2006, 01:03:09]

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