The use of alcohol, tobacco and most other illicit drugs among Maryland youth declined last year, continuing a downward trend that has lasted a decade, according to a new report.

State officials applauded the results of the 2004 biennial Maryland Adolescent Survey, presented yesterday to the State Board of Education. Among the highlights were a nearly 50 percent drop since 1994 in the percentage of students who said they had consumed alcohol the month before. Similar drops were reported for the percentage of sixth- and eighth-graders who reported they had used marijuana.

Officials said they are keeping an eye, however, on slight increases in the use of several serious drugs by eighth-graders since the last survey in 2002. Methamphetamine use was reported at 1.3 percent last year, up from 1 percent two years earlier. Nearly 1.5 percent of eighth-graders said they had used crack cocaine, up from 1.1 percent in 2002.

The percentage of sixth-graders who reported they had used alcohol and cigarettes in the previous 30 days also crept up -- to 1.5 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

In a statement, Maryland School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick called the overall 10-year decline "gratifying" but added that educators and politicians "cannot let our guard down."

Maryland's survey was given to public school students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 in December. About 84 percent -- or approximately 34,500 students -- responded.

State education officials attributed the rise in reported drug use by younger teenagers to weaker health curricula in early grades. They said they would renew efforts to reach those students, as well as younger ones.

The report also showed a strong correlation between drug use and peer approval and between abstinence and parental involvement. For example, 78 percent of youths who said that they had tried marijuana also said that their friends thought use of the substance was acceptable. But only 29.6 percent of those who had abstained said their friends approve of the drug.

In addition, 55 percent of sixth-graders who had never used drugs or alcohol said their parents had talked to them about it, compared with 40.2 percent of users.

A full copy of the report, which includes a breakdown of statistics by county, is available at