Until yesterday, however, Scranton had not suggested that he had made a mistake in using drugs.
Scranton has said he used marijuana and has described his drug use as ''recreational," but he has declined to identify other controlled substances he used. He also has denied reports that he had "experimented" with some drugs and had developed a drug dependency before becoming involved in the Transcendental Meditation movement in the early 1970s.
Scranton's admissions, coupled with a national anti-drug crusade led by President and Nancy Reagan, have made drug use an issue in Scranton's campaign against Democrat Robert P. Casey.
State capital reporters, who grilled Scranton about his drug usage earlier this month, were not notified in advance of Scranton's speech.
James Carville, Casey's campaign manager, blasted the drug speech as "a carefully orchestrated attempt designed to avoid press scrutiny."
Republicans recently conducted a poll to determine how to handle the drug issue. One of the questions asked, according to a suburban Philadelphia teacher who was polled, was whether Scranton would be better able to fight the drug problem because of his personal experiences.
"My experience taught me several lessons," Scranton told the students. ''Any drug use is wrong. I have seen what drugs can do. I know what they can't do. They can't solve problems, they can't make you happy. But they can ruin your life."
Scranton said he would impose random drug tests for state government officials involved in jobs "where public safety and security would be threatened by someone using drugs on the job."