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Teen drug study shows troubling attitudes

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WASHINGTON » Downing five or more alcoholic drinks nearly every day isn’t seen as a big problem for many of the nations teens, says a new report.

When asked whether they see "great risk" in drinking that much, almost half the teens questioned — 45 percent — didn’t see it as a big deal.

The study being released today by The Partnership at Drugfree.org also showed upward trends in marijuana and Ecstasy use among young people in ninth through 12th grade.

"You’re seeing this weakness in this generation of teens’ attitudes around drug and alcohol use," says Steve Pasierb, president of the partnership. "They really don’t see any harm in that heavy drinking."

Among teens the average age when they had their first drink was 14, the study said.

Overall, 68 percent said they had consumed alcohol. Of those, one-quarter of teens had their first drink at age 12 or younger.

According to the study, teens said the top reasons for drinking were "because it is fun" and "so they won’t feel left out."

Pasierb says early drinking can often signal deeper problems. "It’s about that vulnerability," he said, "Why is a 12-year-old drinking?"

Other findings in the study:

» Twenty-five percent of teens said last year that they had smoked marijuana in the past month. While that number is unchanged from the previous year, it is higher than 2008 and confirms an upward trend that ended nearly a decade of declines in pot usage among teens.

» Ecstasy abuse also continued an upward trend, with 6 percent of teens reporting past-month use — up from 4 percent in 2008.

The Partnership’s "attitude tracking" study was sponsored by the MetLife Foundation. Researchers surveyed 2,544 teens with anonymous questionnaires that the youngsters filled out from March to June of last year. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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