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nov23_pic9_article(BLACKAMERICAWEB)  Drug use among black American females and Latino males ages 12 to 17 has risen dramatically in the past two years, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCDP).

The data, released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency, revealed both groups demonstrated increased drug use of more than 3 percentage points, making them the groups with the biggest increases in illegal drug use between 2008 and 2009.

Three percentage points may not sound like a big increase, but in raw numbers, that translates to many tens of thousands of young people.

As a result, the drug control policy office is calling on parents and community leaders to act immediately to prevent drug use among teenagers.

According to the survey, drug use among black, non-Hispanic females ages 12 to 17 years old rose from 7.3 percent in 2008 to 10.4 percent in 2009. Drug use by Hispanic males of the same age group rose from 9.2 percent in 2008 to 12.8 percent in 2009, increases of 43 and 39 percent respectively.

Data released in September showed overall teen drug use increased between 2008 and 2009, with one in 10 youth ages 12-17 and one in five young adults between 18-25 reporting drug use in the last month.

“Here’s what we saw: For about five years, we saw a decrease (in drug use), then for two years before this survey, the results were flat. Then we began to see that teenagers began to discount the dangers from drug use. That usually tells us we’re going to see an increase,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the drug control policy office.

“The year 2009 saw an increase of 9 percent from the year before,” Kerlikowske told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “But when you disaggregate the info, it’s more startling among African-American teen girls.”

He said the survey only records the increase in use, not correlation, causes or effective relationships to explain the data.

Parents have a strong influence on teenagers’ decision to use – or not use – drugs, and those who may be working longer or taking on second jobs because of concerns about employment, the economy and housing may not be as available as they were previously to have discussions with their children about the choices they make, Kerlikowske theorized.

ONCDP recommends three tips that may help prevent or delay drug use among young people:

– Talk to your teenagers about drugs. Research shows parents are the best messengers to deliver critical information on drug use, the harm it can cause and their disapproval about their use.

– Spot risk factors, such as drug-abusing peers, poor classroom behavior or social skills and/or academic problems.

– Go through your medicine cabinet, and remove prescription drugs. More than 70 percent of people who abuse drugs get them from friends, family or the medicine chest. Dispose of unused or unneeded drugs, and find a safer location for those drugs you do need to use.

In the meantime, Kerlikowske said, President Barack Obama has asked for an additional $203 million for drug prevention efforts in the 2011 budget, including AboveTheInfluence.com, a media campaign designed for and by young people.

“The findings that we’ve done show that the kids who are exposed to the ads are more resistant to drug use,” Kerlikowske said.

ONDCP has also revamped the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign to include a broader focus on substances most often abused by teens, including prescription drugs, marijuana and alcohol, and partnering with communities to reach at-risk …..

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