Survey shows youth drug use common

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 5, 2009

The results of the 2009 Pride survey, which gauges sixth through 12th graders’ usage and perceptions on alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, show an alarming trend in local schools.

The survey is used by more than 8,000 school systems nationwide as a measure of illicit drug use by youth. It takes approximately 40 minutes to administer and asks each question multiple times, using different wording techniques to gauge accurate responses.

In analyzing data from the Andalusia City School System, the trend is clear — students are using alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.

“This survey just verifies what we already know,” said Bob Harry, ACS’s federal programs coordinator. “The numbers aren’t any great revelations. They show that it’s easy for students to obtain tobacco and alcohol. It shows they aren’t using them while they’re in school — it’s the time afterwards, on the weekend and when they’re unsupervised.

“The great thing about these results is that we can look at the data and know where we need to be targeting,” he said. “Our system has seen some slight decreases in our statistics and I think that can be directly contributed to our drug testing policy and groups such as Peer Helpers.

“You can do all the education you want, but when students know they’re going to be tested, they’re more in tune to what they’re doing,” he said. “Groups like Peer Helpers show students who encourage others to live a healthy lifestyle, and it helps.”

In the Andalusia City Schools, 712 students in grades 6-12 were surveyed. Of those, 25 percent admitted to tobacco use, 39 percent to alcohol use and 13 percent to marijuana use.

The survey also showed that just 10 percent of sixth and seventh grade students had used a tobacco product. However, 42.7 percent of juniors admitted to using tobacco.

Alcohol was by far the most used of the three substances, according to survey results. Fifteen percent of sixth graders admitted use, 23 percent of seventh graders, 36.7 percent of eighth graders, 45.3 percent of ninth graders, 51.9 percent of 10th graders, 56.2 percent of 11th graders and 54.2 percent of 12th graders.

The survey’s data also proved that students at each grade level not only believed the substance’s use was harmful, but they also knew their parents would disapprove. It also showed students first used tobacco or alcohol between the ages of 10-13.

Throughout each of the statistic areas, it was apparent students in the 11th grade showed a higher predilection for illicit drug use, while sixth graders showed the lowest.

“I wouldn’t be hesitant to say that there’s no difference in our numbers compared to the other systems (locally), those statewide or nationally,” Harry said. “What we do in response to those numbers is the key. Like I said, the drug testing and groups like Peer Helpers are improving our numbers.”