Teen use of heroin down

But seniors report increase in abuse of other narcotics

Binge drinking `alarming'

September 27, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Although fewer Carroll teen-agers are using heroin, county teens continue to have a higher rate of drug and alcohol use than their Maryland peers, according to a survey presented to Carroll's Board of Education yesterday.

Heroin use among the county's 12th-graders dropped from 2 percent to 1.1 percent during a 30-day period measured in 1998 and again this year, according to the 2001 Maryland Adolescent Survey released by educators this week. Statewide, fewer than 1 percent of 12th-graders used heroin during a 30-day period this year, according to the survey.

But the survey also reported that use of narcotics other than heroin (such as the prescription drug OxyContin) among Carroll graduated seniors during the 30-day period more than doubled to 7.3 percent of students.

In the late 1990s, community emphasis on the heroin problem in Carroll sparked a statewide response and national recognition for the county's prevention efforts. Even so, six people died of heroin-related overdoses last year in Carroll, according to medical examiner reports collected by George Butler of the Carroll County state's attorney's office.

Although cigarette and alcohol use by Carroll teens generally has decreased since 1998, the growing popularity of Ecstasy, LSD, prescription narcotics and binge drinking has educators and others who work with students concerned.

"Our current use of heroin decreasing is gratifying," said Joanne M. Hayes, Carroll's substance-abuse prevention school-community coordinator. "It's still alarming to note that more than 50 percent of last year's seniors reported that they have had five or more drinks on one occasion."

Alcohol remained the drug most abused by Carroll respondents who had ever used illegal substances. In Carroll, 58.4 percent of 12th-graders said they had engaged in binge drinking at least once. The statewide number was 52.3 percent.

Between 1998 and this year, alcohol use by Carroll 12th-graders during the past 30 days decreased from 57.2 percent to 49 percent.

In the survey, educators asked sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders whether they had used specific substances ever, in the past 30 days and in the past 12 months.

In general, Carroll sixth-graders used drugs and alcohol less frequently than their Maryland peers, but by 12th grade, drug abuse among Carroll students exceeded the state average.

Highlights from the survey include:

LSD use by Carroll sixth-graders doubled since the 1998 survey to 0.8 percent.

Carroll sixth-graders reported no use of designer drugs, but use of such drugs in other grades increased. Use of Ecstasy and other designer drugs by Carroll seniors during the past 30 days increased from 2.8 percent two years ago to 6.4 percent this year. Statewide, 4.6 percent of 12th-graders reported using designer drugs.

Cigarette smoking among Carroll's eighth-graders during the past 30 days decreased from 14.3 percent to 8.5 percent.

The biennial survey of students in the sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades is used to determine trends in use of tobacco and other drugs in Maryland. In Carroll, 1,696 students were surveyed in March. Information gathered by the survey is used to tailor countywide drug prevention programs, Hayes said.

Carroll educators, law enforcement officials and social service providers who attended the presentation credited the drop in heroin, alcohol and cigarette use to school- and community-based programs. They renewed their resolve to adapt programs to address trends in drug use.

"The good news is the programs we have in place are working," said Lt. Terry Katz, barracks commander for Westminster State Police. "However, in this business, we can't be static."

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