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Teens using ‘scripts more?

Survey shows many choose pills to get high

More than 5 percent of the students in Covington County’s three school systems self-reported they use prescription pills to get high, according to results from the latest PRIDE Survey.

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PRIDE surveys measure certain student behaviors, including the use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs. The latest results were presented to the Children’s Policy Council this week.

While students reported using alcohol and marijuana to get high more often than prescription pills, CPC members were particularly concerned with the increase in the number of students in Opp who reported using prescription bills.

The survey breaks the use of prescriptions into two types of drug categories.

The first is drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall and Xanax. The second is Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet.

In Andalusia, 8.9 percent of students have used Ritalin, Adderall or Xanax.

Of those, 3.4 percent have tried it once and 1.8 percent use it every day.

Some 7.1 percent have used Vicodin, OxyContin or Percocet.

Of those, 1.6 percent have tried it once and 1.6 percent use it every day.

Overall, Superintendent Ted Watson said he believes students are using substances less than their counterparts were 20 years ago.

“We have implemented some programs such as our Peer Helpers to help alleviate some of our usage,” he said. “It’s important to note that most of the students do not use the drugs on our campuses, but we do not need to be naïve and think it doesn’t exist.”

Andalusia City Schools saw the most improvement (greatest decrease) in the use of painkillers. Covington County Schools saw slight improvements in the use over a one-year period, while Opp saw significant increases.

In Covington County Schools, which includes Pleasant Home, Straughn, Red Level and Florala, the use of Ritalin, Adderall and Xanax is at 9.7 percent. One time use is at 3 percent and everyday use is at 2.5 percent.

Use of Vicodin, OxyContin or Percocet is at 8.5 percent, with 1.6 percent using one time and 2.8 percent using daily.

Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver said the system uses tools such as character education, Red Ribbon Week, speakers, and Peer Helpers to combat the use of alcohol and drugs

“We had Mike Lutzenkirchen last week speak about drugs and alcohol to our high schools,” he said.

In Opp, the numbers are greater across the board.

Some 16.1 percent admitted to having used Ritalin, Adderall or Xanax, and 4.1 percent said they used it once, while 4.5 percent claimed they use it every day.

But 15.5 percent reported they have used prescription painkillers to get high.

Of those, 2.3 percent have tried it and 5.3 percent said they use it everyday.

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said his system is working to combat drug usage the only way it can – through education.

“We have speakers who come into the classes,” he said. “We can do what we can do. There are so many factors and so many variables that are out of our control. We are appreciative of the policy council.”

Smithart said the numbers reflect a societal issues, not a school issue.

That statement is backed up by data from the PRIDE Survey that shows most students are using drugs outside of the school.

The Children’s Policy Council Coalition reviews PRIDE surveys taken by each school system, measuring tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and prescription pills.

Marijuana usage among ninth through 12th graders in Andalusia City School was 22.3 percent, with 4 percent of those trying only once and 4 percent using each day.

Covington County Schools’ usage was at 22.1 percent, with 5.7 percent reporting using only once and 4.5 percent reporting using daily.

Opp City Schools had 21.8 percent reporting using, with 6 percent of students using once and 7.5 percent using daily.

Alcohol remained the substance of choice. Across grades 6-12, 16.1 percent of Andalusia students, 20.5 percent of Covington County students, and 19.0 percent of Opp students reported alcohol use.

But the numbers were much higher when only the upper grades were considered: 33.3 percent of the seniors at AHS; 33.6 percent of seniors in the county system; and 45.1 percent of the seniors at OHS reporting alcohol use within 30 days of the survey.