Survey: Drug use high in local teens

Published 12:05am Friday, November 4, 2011

Tobacco and drug use among the county’s teens are “above average,” officials said Thursday.

Roughly 10 percent of all students in Covington County have used marijuana, 18.8 percent have used alcohol and 13.7 percent have smoked cigarettes at least once a month, according to results of the 2010-2011 Pride Survey.

Each year, students in grades six through 12 are questioned about the prevalence of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use, the perception of risk, age of first use and other indicators of substance abuse patterns.

The results of the survey were presented to a group of area religious leaders Thursday.

Superintendents from all three schools asked for religious leaders’ help in combating these dangers.

“Generally speaking, these numbers have stayed consistent,” Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson said. “Parents have the opportunity to make the biggest difference.”

District Judge Trippy McGuire, who is chairman of the Covington County Children’s Policy Council Coalition, echoed Watson’s sentiments.

“Parents do have the greatest influence on teens,” he said. “Values are learned in homes. If they don’t get them there, they won’t get them.”

“We do need your (churches) helps,” Covington County Schools Superintendent Terry Holley said. “We are all over the spectrum. We are constantly promoting (being drug-free) but we can only go so far. I’m going to reiterate what’s been said, it’s a team effort.”

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said his numbers were reflective of the other two systems.

“I’d be concerned if they added a prescription pills category. I think we’d all be alarmed at that data,” he said. “I think we need to take a look at the protective factors, such as parental influence.

“Parents blame the schools and the schools blame the parents. Church attendance is very crucial. We have them from 7:30 to 3. We do the best we can. We need to look at other protective factors such as what causes an adult to go to church.”

Smithart said statistics show that 85 percent of adults whose father took them to church as an adolescent continue to go to church, while 50 percent whose mother took them continue. Only 10 percent of adults choose to attend church on their own notion.

McGuire agreed that a father’s role is important in all aspects of maturation.

“You’ve got to have a dad,” he said. “It takes a man to teach a boy how to be a man. You can’t overemphasize the role of a father.”

Susan Short, executive director of the CCCPCC said the risk perception data concerned her.

Nearly 25 percent of the county’s 2,486 students surveyed don’t think using marijuana is risky.

“I think the medical marijuana viewpoint is filtering down to our young people,” she said. “These numbers are high to me. Marijuana is a gateway drug.”

McGuire agreed.

“The big lie in society is that marijuana will not harm you, and it’s not addictive,” he said. “I see someone who comes before me on their first marijuana charge, they still have light behind their eyes. Four years later, when they stand before me for their second marijuana charge, they aren’t the same person. Attitudes toward marijuana are becoming more lackadaisical.”

Countywide, roughly 21 out of 443 sixth graders surveyed have used alcohol, 10 out of 442 sixth graders have smoked cigarettes and nine out of 438 sixth graders have used marijuana once a month or more often.

Those numbers increased to 44 out of 411 seventh graders admit to using alcohol, 32 out of 410 have smoked cigarettes and 19 out of 408 have used marijuana.

Sixty-three out of 426 eighth graders admitted to using alcohol, 34 out of 423 smoked cigarettes and 25 out of 421 used marijuana, or 5.9 percent.

Of the 384 students surveyed in the ninth grade, 79 admitted to using alcohol, 52 smoked cigarettes and 48 smoked marijuana, or 12.5 percent.

In the 10th grade, 101 of 347 students reported using alcohol, 91 of 347 smoked cigarettes and 62 of 345 used marijuana or 18 percent.

The county’s 11th graders reported that 97 of the 285 students surveyed used alcohol, 71 of 284 smoked cigarettes and 45 out of 283 used marijuana, or 16 percent.

A whopping 32 percent of seniors or 70 out 217 admitted using alcohol at least once a month, 25 percent or 55 out of 216 admitted using cigarettes and 19 percent or 41 out of 215 admitted using marijuana.

“Our perspective is to give this information to the faith-based community and get it out to their parents in the congregations,” Short said. “We’re trying to reach parents to combat youth substance abuse. Some parents don’t have any idea. We are above average for substance abuse.”

  • Naviddousel

    The article should have been titled “Drugs and alcohol disconnect Continues” heralded by such incisive thoughts as “Marijuana is a gateway drug” or “Church attendance is very crucial” or “Nearly 25 percent of the county’s 2,486 students surveyed don’t think using marijuana is risky.” All these comments illustrate the disconnect between perception and reality. I will address two or three points only since this process doesn’t have room for a dissertation-level response

    Drugs are bad. Addiction is destructive. Teens engage in bad behavior. Parents don’t do enough. We need more community involvement. All simple statements but ideas that leave out important realities. First, alcohol is legal. Millions use and enjoy it everyday without it being a “bad choice.” Teenagers may be our kids but they aren’t children many will choose to drink. In fact, in more progressive countries children are allowed to consume alcohol without the worries or problems that occur in the U.S.. While no one wants any person they care about to use abuse alcohol, the idea that a drink puts one on the path of destruction is silly and ignorant. Yes, everyone can point to a tragedy that has occurred through alcohol abuse but one can point to tragedies in every aspect of life.

    Second is the idea that more churches will fix the perceived and real aspects of these issues. Have I missed the loss of churches in this county? Have Covington County churches moved to Coffee County to avoid property taxes and to find a more attentive population? Or has some Federal agency forced every 3rd church to close? Every survey that is reported puts some type of religious belief at 90% or better in this state. Those numbers lend evidence to the fact that the abusers are the spiritual.

    Third are the fears of marijuana use. The most prevalent comment is that marijuana is a gateway drug. Sure it is if you want it to fit a specific role that is created to support the statistics used. In this context, what is said is the EVERYONE that abuses Meth, Crack, Heroin, etc. began by smoking marijuana. Probably true but EVERYONE of those same abusers also ate food before they used marijuana. Maybe food is the gateway drug or maybe going to school opened the door since virtually everyone that abuses marijuana also went to school beforehand. In reality, poor logic is in play. Millions of people at every level of society use marijuana without any more problems than those that abstain from use.

    We have created a law enforcement culture that views any level of use as tantamount to an addiction. Further, we view addiction as a substance problem rather than a more in-depth problem. People that are addicted to drugs or alcohol show the same propensity to have addictions to anything they encounter in life. Getting people of a particular drug doesn’t change the underlying addictive disorder. Instead, they find something else to latch on to, maybe just more benign on the surface.

    Being young means, teenagers doing stupid and risky things. The fact is that most Americans use alcohol and do so responsibly. Further, millions of Americans smoke cigarettes and use marijuana without going into a suicidal rage that threatens their fellow citizens. Is abuse of these things dangerous? In addition, the majority of Americans, especially those under 45, don’t believe marijuana use is a criminal offense. This is more than medical marijuana movement taking root. Instead, most have tried it and found that the hysteria over its use doesn’t match the experience. In society, citizens abuse everything from food to electricity, from gambling to reading, and from physical training to work, and each can lead to long-term or immediate problems if used in the wrong way. Yet, we don’t ban these things. Instead, we try and teach proper usage. However with the taboo things: Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex, gambling we scream: NOOOOOOOOOO, IT IS Evil while younger people look around and see the absurdity of that response.

    In the end, what I took from the statistics is that so few high school kids admitted to drinking and using cigarettes. 30+ years ago, high school kids could smoke on campus, usually with their teachers in the smoking area. Further, my recollections of drinking are that the majority of my classmates drank in high school. However, that doesn’t fit since too many people want to control the actions of those around us. Maybe, adults should realize that treating young adults as children until they graduate from college is a bad thing. Realize that demonizing things doesn’t work, especially with the resources available for research today. Hec, after the Drug Awareness program gets through with your kids they think a beer or glass of wine is the parents’ end. Such attitudes make everyone fill like they are attacking the problem but instead they are covering for not addressing the subject matter is a reasonable and thoughtful manner.
    community involvement. All simple statements but ideas that leave out important realities. First, alcohol is legal. Millions use and enjoy it everyday without it being a “bad choice.” Teenagers may be our kids but they aren’t children many will choose to drink. In fact, in more progressive countries children are allowed to consume alcohol without the worries or problems that occur in the U.S.. While no one wants any person they care about to use abuse alcohol, the idea that a drink puts one on the path of destruction is silly and ignorant. Yes, everyone can point to a tragedy that has occurred through alcohol abuse but one can point to tragedies in every aspect of life.

    Second is the idea that more churches will fix the perceived and real aspects of these issues. Have I missed the loss of churches in this county? Have Covington County churches moved to Coffee County to avoid property taxes and to find a more attentive population? Or has some Federal agency forced every 3rd church to close? Every survey that is reported put some type of religious belief at 90% or better in this state. Those numbers lend evidence tot he fact that the abusers are the spiritual.

    Third is the fears of marijuana use. The most prevalent comment is that marijuana is a gateway drug. Sure it is if you want it to fit a specific role that is created to support the statistics used. In this context, what is said is the EVERYONE that abuses Meth, Crack, Heroin, etc.. began by smoking marijuana. Probably true but EVERYONE of those same abusers also ate food before the used marijuana. Maybe food is the gateway drug or maybe going to school opened the door since virtually everyone that abuses marijuana also went to school beforehand. In reality

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  • SagaciousYokel

    Thank you Naviddousel for speaking out. Our children deserve to have access to good reliable information rather than dated scare tactics. In the age of Google that just doesn’t work anymore.

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