Underage drinking still trumps pot, pills locally

Published 1:50 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Alcohol remains the No.1 drug of choice for students in grades 6 through 12 countywide.

The Covington County Children’s Policy Council Coalition combined the results of student surveys conducted in Andalusia City Schools, Opp City Schools and Covington County Schools.

Results show that alcohol use for a 30-day period before students took the PRIDE survey in 2016 rose with the grade level.

For sixth graders, 3.6 percent reported using alcohol in the previous 30 days; 7.6 percent of seventh graders; 17.1 percent of eighth graders; 19.3 percent of ninth graders; 24.4 percent of sophomores; 22.7 percent of juniors and 29.3 percent of seniors.

Marijuana and prescription pill usage also followed the same trend, though not at widespread usage of alcohol.

Just 0.2 percent of sixth graders reported using marijuana in the past 30 days; 1.5 percent of seventh graders; 6.2 percent of eighth graders; 7.4 percent of ninth graders; 12.6 percent of sophomores; 10.4 percent of juniors; and 15.2 of seniors.

On the prescription pill end, 1.2 percent of sixth graders reported using in the last 30 days; 1.8 percent of seventh graders; 4.8 percent of eighth graders; 3.7 percent of ninth graders; 4.4 percent of sophomores; 8.2 percent of juniors and 6.6 percent of seniors.

During the school year, the CCCPCC had a youth alcohol prevention grant, which they had for four years. The last school year was the last year under the grant.

To combat the alcohol, Director Susan Short said they implemented five prevention strategies.

  • Alcohol response team, which was formed of all law enforcement agencies to help reduce underage drinking.
  • Undercover outlet compliance checks. Law enforcement conducts undercover compliance checks periodically at alcohol outlets by sending in an underage buyer.
  • Roadside sobriety checkpoints. Checkpoints over the grant period resulted in 39,003 traffic stops and 107 alcohol-related violations by minors.
  • Media campaigns about enforcement efforts/ counter advertising. Billboards.
  • Outdoor lighting strategy. Determined hot spots/dark places for gathering places that youth engage in high-risk behavior, especially alcohol consumption.

The CCCPCC believes that the grant was successful

“Since the beginning of the grant, using baseline data for 6-12 the core measure for 30-day use for alcohol countywide was reduced by 6.7 percent by the end of the grant period,” Short said. “School year 2014-2015 and School Year 2015-2016 PRIDE data for grades 6-12 countywide indicates core measure for 30-day use for alcohol was reduced by 2.6 percent.”

Short said the core measure of perception and risk for alcohol was improved by 2.1 percent and core measure friends disapproval for alcohol improved 3.2 percent; and there was reduction in binge drinking at 1.5 percent.