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For Immediate Release

For information contact:
Toni Montier, Gaudenzia Inc.
106 W. Main Street
Norristown, PA 19401
(610) 239-9600 x206

New CESAR Report on Multiple Drug Use Among Public School Students Finds No Evidence of “Heroin Only” or “Ecstasy Only” Users

In an effort to examine patterns of drug use among Maryland students and investigate ways to identify youth at risk for multiple drug use, CESAR staff analyzed data from the 2002 Maryland Adolescent Survey. A primary finding from the analysis was that students who had used less common drugs at least once in their lifetime—drugs other than alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco—were more likely to have used multiple drugs in their lifetime, the past year, and the past month. For example, the 71% of seniors who had ever used alcohol had used an average of 3.1 drugs (including alcohol) in their lifetime and 1.7 drugs in the past month. However, seniors who had ever used heroin (2% of seniors) had used an average of 9.8 drugs (including heroin) in their lifetime and 7.1 drugs in the past month. In fact, the prevalence of the use of a drug was almost perfectly negatively correlated (r = -.99) with the average number of drugs used in the past month, past year, and lifetime.

Lifetime Use of Drugs and Mean Number of Drugs Used in Lifetime and Past Month, Maryland 12th Grade Students, 2002

These findings suggest that the “heroin only” or “ecstasy only” user is a rarity. Nearly all (99.5%) students who used the less common drugs had also used the common drugs. Parents and teachers should assume that youths found to be using any drug other than alcohol, tobacco, and/or marijuana are at high risk for multiple drug use, and should talk regularly with and monitor these youths for signs of other drug abuse. Treatment that focuses only on the particular drug that brought the youth to attention can miss other drug problems. Therefore, treatment efforts should focus on the entire person and his or her patterns of multiple drug use. Additional findings from this MAS analysis are available in the DEWS Investigates report, “Identifying Maryland Public School Students Who Have Tried Multiple Drugs,” which is online at


“This research offers a clear message to parents and educators: Teenagers who are found to be using alcohol are likely to be using more than alcohol. Teenagers who are found to be using a drug are likely to be using other drugs. These children/young adults are at risk for escalating problems educationally, socially and legally. Our treatment facilities are working with numerous 18 – 26 year old multi-drug users, all of whom began using as teenagers; many of whom have been referred by the criminal justice system; and many whose families tell us they had minimized their drug use during high school believing that “it was only a few beers”.

Gale Saler, LCPC, CRC-MAC
Director, Gaudenzia Chesapeake Region

Gaudenzia is Pennsylvania’s largest non-profit provider of drug, alcohol and mental health services, with additional programs in Maryland and Delaware.

*Binge drinking is defined as having six or more drinks on at least one occasion in the last month.

NOTE: The NLSY is a nationally representative sample of almost 12,700 individuals who were age 14 to 22 years in 1979 and have been interviewed annually or biennially since 1979. The sample eligible for this study consisted of 4,130 individuals who were interviewed at appropriate ages when drinking was assessed.

SOURCE: Center for Substance Abuse Research, Maryland Drug Early Warning System. “Identifying Maryland Public School Students Who Have Tried Multiple Drugs,” DEWS Investigates, June 2005. For more information, contact Dr. Eric Wish at

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