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News and Notes   |    
Psychiatric Services 2002; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.53.3.357
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A government-sponsored survey has found a dramatic increase in the use of Ecstasy by American adolescents over the past three years. The percentage of students who reported past-year use of Ecstasy doubled between 1998 and 2001: from 1.8 to 3.5 percent of eighth graders, from 3.3 to 6.2 percent of 10th graders, and from 3.6 to 9.2 percent of 12th graders, according to the latest findings of Monitoring the Future, an annual survey of a nationally representative sample of 44,000 eighth, 10th, and 12th graders in 424 public and private schools.

Ecstasy, also know as MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), is a stimulant drug that is often taken for its hallucinogenic effects. Its use can cause brain damage and even death, according to recent studies sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This year's Monitoring the Future survey also found evidence of a continuing sharp increase in the availability of the drug. The proportion of 12th graders who said they could obtain Ecstasy fairly or very easily rose from 40 percent in 1999 to 51 percent in 2000 and then rose again to 62 percent in 2001. In 1998 only 53 percent of the schools represented in the 12th-grade national sample had any respondent who had used Ecstasy; in 2001 Ecstasy had reached 72 percent of the schools.

Although rates of Ecstasy use have climbed continuously since 1998, researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, which has conducted the annual study for the Department of Health and Human Services since 1975, point to evidence of a deceleration of the rise in rates that is evident in this year's survey data. They attribute this slowing down to the growing proportion of students who perceive that use of Ecstasy is dangerous. Only 12th graders were asked about their perceptions of the risk of using this drug. The proportion reporting that it was "a great risk" jumped from 38 percent in 2000 to 46 percent in 2001.

According to the 2001 study, the use of Ecstasy has reached many demographic subgroups, but it is much less favored among African-American students than among white and Hispanic students. For example, among 12th graders, only 2 percent of African-American students reported using Ecstasy in the past year, compared with 10 percent of both white and Hispanic students.

Ecstasy is just one of many illicit drugs covered by the study, which found important decreases in the use of some other substances.

Use of inhalant drugs, including solvents and aerosols, continued to decline gradually in all three grades—from 9.4 to 9.1 percent of eighth graders, from 7.3 to 6.6 percent of 10th graders, and from 5.9 to 4.5 percent of 12th graders. The researchers attribute the steady decline in inhalant use since 1995 to teenagers' growing perception of the risk of using inhalants, which was first noted in 1996 when Partnership for a Drug-Free America launched an advertising campaign about the dangers of inhalants.

Heroin use declined substantially and significantly among 10th and 12th graders after a long period of growth. The proportion of 10th graders reporting past-year use fell from 1.4 percent in 2000 to .9 percent in 2001; for 12th graders these figures were 1.5 percent and .9 percent, respectively.

Rates of LSD use in 2001 were below the peak levels reached in 1996 in all three grades, but the gradual declines in 2001 were statistically significant only for 10th graders. Among 12th graders, 6.6 reported past-year LSD use in both 2000 and 2001. Students in all grades were less likely in 2001 than in 2000 to perceive that use of LSD presented a great risk or to report that they disapproved of its use.

Rates of cocaine and crack use are below the peaks reached in 1998 among eighth graders and in 1999 among 10th and 12th graders, but rates declined in 2001 only for 10th graders. In 2001, 2.5 percent of eighth graders, 3.6 percent of 10th graders, and 4.8 percent of 12th graders used cocaine. For crack, the figures were 1.7 percent, 1.8 percent, and 2.1 percent, respectively.

Although use of marijuana or hashish has risen considerably in all grades since the early 1990s, rates of use have remained relatively stable since 1995. In 2001 past-year use of these drugs was reported by 15.4 percent of eighth graders, 32.7 percent of 10th graders, and 37 percent of 12th graders.

Rates of alcohol use have remained stable in all three groups since the early 1990s. In 2001 the proportions reporting use of alcohol in the past year were 41.9 percent of eighth graders, 63.5 percent of 10th graders, and 73.3 percent of 12th graders.

Between 1998 and 2001 the proportion of 12th graders who reported smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days fell from 35.1 to 29.5 percent. Similar declines were seen for eighth graders—from 19.1 to 12.2 percent—and for 10th graders—27.6 to 21.3 percent.

The findings of the 2001 survey are available on the Web at www.monitoringthefuture.org.

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News Briefs

Bazelon Center fact sheets: About 16 percent of all jail and prison inmates have a severe mental illness. These individuals may be entitled to federal benefits that can give them access to treatment services and to income support to pay for housing and other basic needs, greatly reducing the risk of recidivism. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law has created three fact sheets on cash benefits and health care for veterans, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and food stamps. The fact sheets describe the relevant provisions in federal laws and regulations that govern how the benefits may be lost or suspended when a person is incarcerated and how they can be restored promptly after release. They are designed to supplement the center's booklet Finding the Key to Successful Transition From Jail to Community for People With Serious Mental Illness, which describes federal rules for Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Medicaid and Medicare. The fact sheets are available on the center's Web site at www.bazelon.org.

WHO atlas on mental health resources: The World Health Organization has compiled Atlas: Mental Health Resources in the World, 2001, which provides global and regional analyses of information collected from 185 countries, covering 99.3 percent of the world's population. The 55-page atlas uses colorful maps and other graphics to present data that document the gross inadequacies of resources to address the global burden associated with mental illness. The data are organized by themes such as mental health policy, legislation, substance abuse policy, therapeutic drugs, psychiatric beds, and psychiatrists. The atlas was developed to drive national and global mental health programs and help health planners and policy makers identify areas that need attention. The full text of the atlas is available on the WHO Web site at www.who.int/mental_health, along with information about ordering the atlas.

CASA report on spirituality in treatment: The key finding of a two-year study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) is that tapping the power of God, religion, and spirituality has enormous potential for lowering the risk of substance abuse among teens and adults and, when combined with professional treatment, for promoting recovery. For the study, CASA surveyed presidents of schools of theology and seminaries as well as clergy and analyzed three national data sets. The report raises concerns about the lack of knowledge and training among clergy to deal with substance use problems and the failure among health care professionals—especially psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals—to recognize the importance of religion and spirituality in prevention and treatment of addiction. The full text of the 61-page report, So Help Me God: Substance Abuse, Religion, and Spirituality, is available on the CASA Web site at www.casacolumbia.org, along with information about ordering the report.

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People & Places

Appointments: James H. Scully, Jr., M.D., was appointed chair of the delegation of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to the policy-making body of the American Medical Association (AMA), the house of delegates. Dr. Scully is the Alexander G. Donald professor and chair of the department of neuropsychiatry and behavioral science at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Charleston. He is former director of APA's office of education. The AMA's Section Council on Psychiatry is composed of the APA delegation, a delegation from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and representatives of allied psychiatric organizations.

Dilip Jeste, M.D., has been named inaugural president of the International College of Geriatric Psychopharmacology, an organization created by leading geriatric psychiatrists to help scientists worldwide share knowledge in geriatric psychiatry, neurology, medicine, and psychology. Dr. Jeste is chief of the division of geriatric psychiatry and director of the Specialized Mental Health Intervention Research Center on Late-Life Psychosis at the University of California, San Diego. He is also editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, which is published by American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

Xavier F. Amador, Ph.D., has joined the staff of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill as director of its newly formed Center on Practice and Research. The center's mission is to identify the best evidence-based practices for helping people with serious mental illness to recover. Dr. Amador was formerly director of psychology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City and associate professor in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.

Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D., has been named acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, succeeding Enoch Gordis, M.D., who recently retired as director. Dr. Kington was formerly director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at the National Institutes of Health and director of the division of health examination statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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References

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