The government Wednesday released figures showing a 72 percent drop in the use of cocaine over five years. President Bush said that shows "our hard work is paying off."

"There has been some marked progress - changing attitudes and behaviors as more and more of our neighbors and co-workers have turned away from illegal drugs," Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan said in announcing the new figures.He said the number of people using illicit drugs was down 44 percent over the past five years, from 23 million in 1985 to 12.9 million in 1990.

"The news we have today suggests that our hard work is paying off," Bush said. He spoke briefly at a news conference called to release the 1990 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

Some of the report's key findings:

- Current cocaine use (use at least once in the past month) has decreased 72 percent since 1985 and 45 percent since the last study was conducted in 1988.

- The number of current cocaine users dropped from 5.8 million (2.9 percent of the population over age 12) in 1985 to 2.9 million (1.5 percent) in 1988 to 1.6 million (0.8 percent) in 1990.

- Marijuana remains the most commonly used illicit drug in the country, although "current" use of marijuana declined from 1979, when there were 22.5 million users (12.7 percent) to 1990, when there were 10.2 million (5.1 percent) current users.

- The number of adolescents using drugs fell by 13 percent from 1.8 million in 1988 to 1.6 million in 1990. Adolescents currently using cocaine fell by 49 percent from 225,000 in 1988 to 115,000 in 1990.

The survey was based on interviews with 9,259 people age 12 and over.

Bush said one of the most encouraging conclusions of the study was the decline in drug use among teenagers, which he called "evidence they're learning to say no."

However, Bush said, "A declaration of victory would be premature," noting that drug use still remained an enormous national health problem.

"There will be no retreat in our efforts to end the international menace of drugs."