Local officials throughout the Washington area said yesterday that a new report describing the region's drug problem as one of the worst in the nation is further evidence that new drug detection and prevention efforts are needed.

Several officials said they were not surprised by the preliminary findings of the Rand Corp. report, which placed the Washington area at or near the top of most other metropolitan areas in the abuse of cocaine, PCP and heroin, according to 1986 data.

The study, which also noted that the drug abuse problem was as severe, if not worse, in Washington's suburbs, supported many police and elected officials' contentions that the drug problem is not confined to the District or to one race, age group or income level. Earlier this month, suburban police officials announced that they had made record numbers of drug seizures and arrests in 1987.

"It {drug use} no longer is an inner city problem," said Peter F. Luongo, director of Montgomery County's Addiction and Youth Treatment Services program. "That is a myth that has a hard time dying."

District officials said the report supported long-held beliefs that the city was unfairly being blamed for most of the region's drug trafficking.

"Among those of us who work in the field, we've all had a pretty good feeling that the problem was not isolated here in the District," said Steve Rickman of the District's Office of Criminal Justice Plans and Analysis.

Officials from around the Capital Beltway said the alarming amount of drugs in the region was more proof that the federal government's efforts to stop drugs from entering the country and its "Just Say No" educational program have failed.

What is needed, they said, is an antidrug campaign similar to the national antismoking effort, aggressive counseling in schools, tougher penalities for drug use and a stronger regional effort to fight drugs. While important, the tougher policing of neighborhoods is not enough, officials said.

Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening said new emphasis should be placed on dissuading people from experimenting with drugs and counseling those who do.

"We should do more in prevention and counseling," Glendening said. "Law enforcement action can only be a rear guard fight. You are not going to win the war at that level."

Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. said three neighborhoods in his city -- Arlandria, sections of Rte. 1 in downtown Alexandria, and Lynhaven -- have "been taken over by drug dealers."

Alexandria police officers have been aggressive in arresting corner dealers, but officials said that for every person arrested there are five or 10 more people waiting to take that dealer's place.

A more effective way to fight the drug epidemic, Moran said, is to make it less attractive to sell drugs. "Young kids see the opportunity to make $50 in a half an hour {by selling drugs} as far more attractive than making $50 by delivering newspapers every morning for a month.

"We need to create the same reaction in youths against drugs as we have against smoking," Moran said. To come up with the resources to reach youngsters and provide more treatment for all drug users, Moran said the business community and those "with deep pockets" are needed to supplement government funds.

Montgomery County Council President Michael L. Subin said tougher penalties are needed to deter drug dealers. "It doesn't make sense to hire a whole bunch more narcotics officers," he said, "unless the courts are prepared to deal with them."

On Monday, Montgomery County is scheduled to begin its budget deliberations for next year. Subin said he expects there to be more requests for money to deal with the drug problem.

Fairfax County Board Chairman Audrey Moore, agreeing with the report's finding that drugs are consumed by poor, middle-income and wealthy people, said that in her county, one of the nation's most affluent, she believed many of the users were well-to-do professionals.

"It's the yuppies who used pot when they were younger. It's the 20-to-40 population."

Police officials said it is difficult to pinpoint where the professionals and middle-class drug users buy cocaine and other drugs because those sales rarely occur on the street.

"D.C. has a lot of street corner activity. We don't," said Lt. Col. John V. Rob, deputy chief of the Fairfax County Police Department. In Fairfax and other suburbs, Rob said, the drug activity "is more subtle. It's in homes, bars and restaurants."

Rob said the violence that has led to an unprecedented number of drug-related killings in the District -- 35 since Jan. 1 -- may not spread as quickly to the suburbs, because the shootings and killings tend to occur in areas known for street drug sales.

"I don't think we'll ever hit the level of violence that the District has, because we don't have the street corner activity," Rob said. "But there is always a chance. If D.C. becomes more saturated with drug dealers, they may move to the suburbs and bring violence with them."

Several elected officials said yesterday they would call a regional summit on drugs to coordinate law enforcement and drug prevention efforts, a call that D.C. Mayor Marion Barry made last month.

Although officials were vague on specifics of when new programs would start and how they would be funded, they said the report armed them with evidence that new efforts must be made.

"Just saying 'No' is not enough," said Luongo, director of Montgomery County's addiction and youth treatment program. "We've got to do something."

Staff writers Retha Hill and Jo-Ann Armao contributed to this report.