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Alcohol, Cigarettes Rank Ahead Of Pot

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Fears of a drug epidemic in the nation's high schools appear to be exaggerated, the University's Institute for Social Research (ISR) reports. A nationwide study by ISR researchers asked questions about previous drug use of a representative sample of 1,600 young men in the class of 1969, one year after they had graduated from high school. "Over three-quarters of these males used no illegal drugs before leaving high school," reports Lloyd Johnston, director of the study and author of the forthcoming book, "Drugs and American Youth," being published by the Institute. The study, one of the first nationwide examinations of drug use among a normal population of young people, also revealed that 10 per cent had used marijuana, but nothing more serious, while another 12 per cent had a least experimented with a more serious illegal drug. Youth attitudes toward drugs appear more conservative than is often thought, Johnston says. "Over two-thirds of the sample said they strongly disapproved of regular use of each of the more serious illegal drugs," he explains. "Attitudes about marijuana, however, were in sharp contrast to those about the more serious drugs. Exactly the same number of respondents approved of or feit neutral about the experimental use of marijuana as disapproved of it. The two most frequently chosen answers were 'strongly disapprove' and 'feel neutral' which suggests that this sample of young men is more polarized on the ethics of marijuana use than on the use of any other drug." ''Drugs and American Youth" ($3, paperbound) will be available this spring from the ISR Publications Division, P.O. Box 1248, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48106. "Marijuana was by far the most popular illegal drug," Johnston says, "with 21 per cent having tried it, although less than 2 per cent had used marijuana daily." The author found that 10 per cent had tried amphetamines, 6 per cent hallucinogens such as LSD, and 6 per cent barbiturates. Less than 2 per cent reported ever trying heroin. These percentages are somewhat higher than would be found in the entire high school class since girls less often use illegal drugs, Johnston notes. "The two traditionally acceptable drugs - alcohol and cigarettes - although they often cannot be legally purchased by minors, clearly rein a i n the f avorite of t h i s younger generation," Johnston reports. "Roughly a third had used alcoholic beverages on a weekly basis (or more often) during the high school years and little over a third smoked cigarettes daily." In the year after high school the ISR study found that the number of users of all drugs jumped substantially. The findings upset the popular conception that drug use is excessively concentrated in the nation's colleges a n d universities. Johnston says that experience with marijuana and hallucinogens among college freshmen was identical to the entire national sample. Furthermore, those in college used amphetamines, barbiturates, and herion less often than their peers. The regular use of alcohol and cigarettes was substantially lower on campus than in any other sector. Johnston reports that while use of marijuana and hallucinogens was m u c h the same on campus as off, those in college started out with lower rates back in high school and were therefore "catching up" to their peers. If their rate of increase remains high in the later years of college, he suggests, the use of drugs on campus could come more into one with the popular stereotype. Surprisingly, the group with the highest rate of conversion to drugs after high school are those who entered the domestic military service (servicemen overseas were not questioned); the lowest conversion rate occurred among those employed in civilian jobs, according to the U-M study. During high school the drug use profiles of these two groups had been much the same. While the young men in the study who reported high rates of delinquency also tended to be heavier users of all seven drugs studied, drugs do not appear to be the cause the delinquency. The study found that "although the user populations are substantially more delinquent than the non-user population by the end of high school, they also were substantially more delinquent as early as ninth grade, a point prior to the beginning of drug use for the vast majority. Thus the more delinquent are considerably more likely to become users, but the users do not appear to become more delinquent." A second quite different syndrome of drug use was also discovered, which centers more around disenchantment with the system, the study reports. Strong relationships j ist between the use of three drugs - marijuana, hallucinogens, and amphetamines - and disagreement with the Vietnam War and more general political alienation. The use of cigarettes, alcohol, and heroin bear no relationship to the syndrome. The author ties his findings to the current controversy over marijuana laws in several ways. He reports that 70 per cent feel that it would be fairly easy to get marijuana under current circumstances, fully twice as many as have ever used it, and 66 per cent have at least some friends who use it. Availability, therefore, does not appear to be a major obstacle to greater use, Johnston says. While legal sanctions may provide some deterrent, Johns feels that existing youth attitudes toward marijuana may explain much of the abstention. About half disapproved of even experimental marijuana use and another quarter feel neutral about it. Two-thirds disapprove of regular use of marijuana. He also points out the distinction made by most young people between marijuana and the more serious drugs. The following findings also emerged from the drug study -Usage rates for all illegal drugs e x c e p t heroin were found to be highest by a considerable margin in the West and Northwest; Heroin and alcohol use did not differ regionally. - Cigarette smoking w a s lowest in the West for this age group, although it is highest in the West for adults. The generation differences m a y indicate a leading trend. -The proportion using illegal drugs - again excluding heroin - tended to be highest in the large cities and least in the rural areas. Alcohol use was highest in rural areas. -Marijuana and hallucinogen use were highest for boys of high socio-economic level and intelligence. Cigarette smoking is lowest in this groups. - Illegal drug use is higher than average among those who drop out of high school those with low grades and' those who attend large high schools. -The use of marijuana and other illegal drugs is not inversely related to consumption of legal drugs, as is often argued. Regular smokers and regular drinkers are considerably more likely to use the various illegal drugs than non-smokers and nondrinkers. Conversely, users of illegal drugs are considerably more likely than non-users to drink and smoke on a regular basis. - Nearly 60 per cent disapprove of smoking cigarettes regularly, approximately the same proportion as those who disapprove of smoking marijuana occasionally.