Results from the 2002 edition of the Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS) suggest a decline in substance use among young people in the Miami Valley.
The most dramatic reduction in this year's survey occurred with cigarettes. The percentage of high school seniors who reported ever having smoked a cigarette was 58.7 percent, down from 67 percent in 2000. Although not as dramatic, important declines in "lifetime use"-at any point in the student's life-were also noted for alcohol, smokeless tobacco, volatile inhalants, steroids, hallucinogens, opiates, and amphetamines. The use of other drugs remained essentially unchanged.
Among the other grade levels participating in the 2002 DADS, declines in drug use were also evident. Substantial drops in lifetime cigarette smoking occurred among 9th graders where 40 percent reported lifetime use, down from 48.7 percent in 2000. Among 7th grade students, lifetime cigarette smoking was reported by 19.2 percent, down from 28.4 percent. Notably, use among 7th graders declined in all drug categories contained on the survey.
"The decreases are good news," says Russel Falck, M.A., assistant professor of community health and the principal investigator for DADS. "The 7th grade data are particularly promising. It is difficult to pinpoint the reasons for the decline but it may be due, in part, to efforts to keep young children away from tobacco, a gateway drug. (A gateway drug is a drug that a person has experience with before trying other drugs.) Fueled by the tobacco settlement, these efforts, like the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, appear to be succeeding and-the gate is starting to close. The efforts need to be sustained, perhaps intensified."
Among 12th graders, the most commonly used drug was alcohol with 79 percent reporting lifetime use, followed by cigarettes (58.7 percent) and then marijuana with 51.6 percent. About 33 percent of the 12th graders reported they had consumed five or more drinks in a row on at least one occasion in the two weeks before the survey. Proportionally more whites than minorities and more boys than girls reported this behavior, with the exception of African American boys, who had the lowest rates. Having been drunk (or very high from alcohol) at least once was reported by 63 percent of 12th graders, 28 percent of 9th graders, and 9 percent of 7th graders. The same gender and ethnic differences associated with five or more drinks in a row applies here.
Significantly, weekends and parties are when and where most substance abuse occurs. "Very few young people reported using drugs during school," says Harvey Siegal, Ph.D., professor of community health and of sociology and director of the Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research. "The survey indicates the important role that parents play in influencing their child's experimentation and use of drugs. It also tells us that the only effective prevention programs unite school, family, and community. There are such approaches out there and we need to look seriously at them."
John North, President of Unified Health Solutions, said, "DADS data strongly suggest that the overwhelming majority of youthful drug use occurs on weekends at parties, not at school. This, in turn, suggests that parents have a critically important role to play in preventing drug abuse by their children."
DADS is a cross-sectional study that provides estimates of youth drug use at one point in time. However, the same schools do not always choose to participate in the biennial study. The districts choose which grades between 7th and 12th they want to survey. This year a total of 23 schools from 14 districts in Montgomery, Greene, and Warren counties participated in the survey. Although urban, suburban, and exurban schools participated, the sample is largely suburban, evenly split between boys and girls, and 85 percent of the student sample was white.
In 2002, of the students polled, 10,638 contributed usable survey data. Of these, 2406 were twelfth graders, 2994 were ninth graders, and 2573 were seventh graders. Students respond anonymously and on a voluntary basis.
- Nearly 11 percent of 12th graders smoke ten or more cigarettes a day, 4.8 percent of 9th graders, and less than 1 percent of 7th graders. Proportionally more whites than minorities smoke. Gender differences vary by ethnicity.
- Daily marijuana smoking was reported by 8.8 percent of the 12th graders, 4 percent of 9th graders, and 1.7 percent of 7th graders. Proportionally more boys than girls are daily marijuana smokers.
- About 33 percent of 12th graders, 52 percent of 9th graders, and 81 percent of 7th graders considered themselves to be abstainers at the time of the survey.
- For the first time, methylenedoxymethamphetamine (also known as MDMA, Ecstasy, XTC), was listed in its own category in the survey. Lifetime use was reported by 10 percent of the 12th graders, 5.9 percent of the 9th graders and 1.7 percent of the 7th graders.
- Also, for the first time, amphetamine surrogates like Ritalin were listed in their own category. Non-medical, lifetime use was reported by 7.8 percent of the 12th graders, 6.0 percent of the 9th graders, and 2.6 percent of the 7th graders.
DADS began in 1990 and has been conducted biennially since 1994. It is a result of collaborative efforts between researchers at the Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR) at Wright State University School of Medicine, Unified Health Solutions (UHS), and is administered through participating Dayton-area school districts. Any school district in the Miami Valley area may participate in the survey at no charge. This year's survey was partially funded by the Kettering Family Fund.
The declines in use revealed in this year's DADS are consistent with reductions reported in several national surveys. Most of the drug use questions contained in DADS are slightly modified versions of items used in the nationwide Monitoring the Future (MTF) study (www.monitoringthefuture.org/). This invites comparison since students in both studies respond to essentially the same questions. Complicating such comparison is the difference in sampling strategies. In addition, DADS results for 2002 are released before MTF results for 2002. Thus, DADS results for 2002 are compared here with MTF results for 2001.
Understanding these qualifications, the results show that there is much similarity between 12th graders in the Dayton area and their national 12th grade peers. For example, 79 percent of Dayton area 12th graders report lifetime experience with alcohol compared to 79.7 percent of their national peers. For other drugs, Dayton area youths reported: slightly less lifetime cigarette smoking (58.7 percent vs. 61percent); slightly more marijuana smoking (51.6 percent vs. 49 percent); slightly more crack use (4.4 percent vs. 3.7 percent); slightly less powdered cocaine use (8 percent vs. 8.2 percent); and less MDMA use (10 percent vs. 11.7 percent).
DADS also queries on non-drug issues. When asked about incidents or activities that occurred in the month before the survey:
- 24 percent of 7th and 9th graders and 12 percent of 12th graders reported being bullied or harassed.
- 17 percent of 7th graders, 14 percent of 9th graders, and 8 percent of 12th graders got into a physical fight.
- 70 percent of 12th graders said they were employed outside of home or school.
- More than 85 percent of all students considered themselves to be happy or very happy when all things were considered. About 9 percent felt unhappy and 4 percent very unhappy.
For more information, see the DADS web page.