Correction at bottom.
WASHINGTON — Teen substance abuse continued to decline this year, according to a federal survey released Tuesday, and President Bush hailed the "promising results."
Reduced use of marijuana, the most popular illicit drug, accounted for most of the drop, according to Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator for the annual analysis, which was based on more than 48,000 confidential responses by eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders.
According to the survey, amphetamine use fell, along with methamphetamine and crystal methamphetamine. Cocaine use also declined, as did crack, heroin, LSD and other hallucinogens, anabolic steroids and OxyContin.
Only abuse of prescription psychotherapeutic drugs — including sedatives, tranquilizers and narcotics other than heroin — clearly is increasing. Ecstasy use probably is rising, but 2006-2007 differences were too small to be sure.
The declines were especially steep among eighth-graders; welcome news, because their abuse patterns forecast future teen trends.
More eighth-graders also are saying no to booze and cigarettes, the survey found. The number who said they'd taken one drink or more in the month before the survey was 40 percent off its peak in the mid-1990s. Only 3 percent said they smoked every day. Twenty years ago, the eighth-grade smoking rate was 10 percent.
"This is a very big development in terms of health and welfare for a whole generation of young people," Johnston, a professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, said of the alcohol and nicotine declines.
Johnston credited state and local authorities for cracking down on underage sales of cigarettes and alcohol, and parents for imposing tighter curbs on their children. Price increases on cigarettes helped, too, especially with younger children, said Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which sponsored the survey.
Bush, who focused strictly on the drug declines, noted that he'd pledged in 2002 to cut drug abuse by young people by 25 percent in five years.
"This strategy has had promising results," he said, but they fall a little short of his goal. Reaching back to 2001 numbers, the president reported a drop of 25 percent in marijuana use by young people, a 24 percent drop in the use of all illicit drugs and sharper drops in steroids and Ecstasy.
But Bush made his pledge as teen drug abuse was trending downward.
According to the Monitoring the Future survey, undertaken annually since 1975, illicit drug use among eighth- to 12th-graders is a trend that looks like a mountain range. Abuse reached its modern peak in 1979. It fell to a modern low in 1992. Then it rebounded somewhat and peaked again in 1997. Since then, it's fallen off gradually.
Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the combination of marijuana's decline among teens and their growing prescription-drug abuse called for a shift in strategy.
The abused drugs deserve more attention, she said, as do "the licit ones, including alcohol and nicotine."
"I don't think it's either/or here," said John Walters, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and architect of the traditional approach. "We're trying to discourage drug abuse generally."
Prescription-drug abuse is an especially intractable problem, Walters added, because teens are far more accepting of legitimately manufactured drugs than of street drugs. Also, teens generally obtain them from medicine cabinets at home rather than from drug dealers.
ON THE WEB
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CORRECTION: A story Wednesday about drug abuse among teens misstated the trend for cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, LSD and hallucinogens other than LSD. Their reported use was steady in the 2007 survey.