BALTIMORE – Maryland youngsters are using more alcohol, marijuana and inhalants — and at younger ages, state officials said Tuesday.
According to a new report, 50 percent of high school seniors abuse alcohol, up from 46 percent two years ago.
And among younger students, inhalants are becoming the drug of choice. More than 5 percent of sixth graders said they had used inhalants — up from only 1 percent in 1992 — and almost 4 percent said they had used them recently.
Meanwhile, LSD use has edged up 3.7 percent since 1992. The report showed increases among eighth, 10th and 12th graders.
The disturbing trends are contained in the Department of Education’s 1994 Maryland Adolescent Survey of more than 18,000 students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12.
The report found that the age at which the majority of students first used alcohol had dropped to between 13 and 14, as opposed to age 15 two years ago.
“Every single teacher, every single parent, every single school must take this report seriously,” Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said at a news conference where the report was unveiled. “We must act now, to gain a foothold in our children’s minds.”
State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick called the statistics “highly disturbing,” but cautioned that “it would be a serious misinterpretation of the data to see Maryland young people in isolation from their counterparts nationally.”
The state report came on the heels of a similar study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which concluded that substance abuse has grown nationwide. And for the most part, the state survey suggested that the behavior of Maryland students mirrored student behavior elsewhere.
This held true in every area except marijuana use, which was 6 percentage points higher among Maryland students. Twenty-five percent of Maryland students said they had used the drug within the last 30 days.
Townsend, who has made combating crime one of her initiatives, said popular culture had glamorized substance abuse.
“This turnabout has come not from a lack of enforcement,…nor has it been due to an increase in the availability of illegal drugs,” Townsend said. “What has changed are attitudes, attitudes fueled in large part by powerful forces in our culture that have forgotten the lessons of the past.”
State officials said the report will help local school systems create programs to better their communities. -30-