The number of drug deaths declined last year for the first time, to 259 from 321 in 2001, according to a report released yesterday by the National Center for Documentation and Information on Drugs and Addiction (EKTEPN). The reduction was partly attributed to the increased number of places available in rehabilitation programs and the fact that fewer were being turned away from these centers for continuing to use drugs. However, the age at which young people first experiment with drugs has gone down to 12. According to a survey of high school pupils, one in three say they have tried more than one substance. About 18,500 people use heroin. About 18 percent have had contact with rehabilitation programs and last year 2,157 addicts joined one of these programs. Most are men aged 19-40, unemployed and with a high school education.