Survey finds most teen drug-use figures steady, but use of Ecstasy rising

Monday, February 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A survey of teen-agers found that drug use remained steady last year with one glaring exception _ a rise in use of Ecstasy _ an anti-drug organization said Monday.

The Partnership For a Drug-Free America said teen Ecstasy use rose 20 percent last year and has increased 71 percent since 1999.

The group, a coalition of communications professionals, unveiled an advertising campaign to warn teens and parents of the dangers of drug use. Many of the ads feature the parents of Danielle Heird, a 21-year-old Las Vegas woman who died after taking Ecstasy in 2000.

``Don't play Russian roulette with your most precious gift _ your life,'' her mother, Elsa Heird, said at a news conference.

John Walters, who directs the White House drug policy office, said anti-drug officials are trying to counter an impression among teens that Ecstasy is harmless. Ecstasy is believed to cause brain damage.

``This is about heading off a problem before it gets out of control,'' he said.

Ecstasy is a synthetic drug considered part hallucinogen and part amphetamine. It became popular over the past decade at dance parties known as raves.

But Stephen J. Pasierb, president of the Partnership, said Ecstasy appears to be expanding beyond clubs.

``Ecstasy has moved out of the rave scene and into the mainstream,'' he said.

The survey of 6,937 teen-agers found that 12 percent of 12-to-18 year olds had used Ecstasy at some point in their lives. That compares with 10 percent in 2000. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

Marijuana remains the most popular drug among teens, with 41 percent having tried it. Inhalants, such as glue, were used by 18 percent, methamphetamines were used by 11 percent, cocaine or crack by 9 percent and heroin by 4 percent.

Use of both alcohol and tobacco had declined. Fifty-three percent of teens reported using alcohol over the past year, down from 58 percent in 2000. For tobacco, 28 percent reported smoking cigarettes over the previous 30 days, compared with 34 percent in the 2000 survey.