DAYTON, OHIO- Results from the 2004 Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS) show that the decline in drug use among adolescents in the Miami Valley, first noted in 2002, has continued. These findings are consistent with those from national studies. Notably, the trend toward declining use does not mean that drug abuse no longer poses a problem for teens. For example, approximately 60% of 12th graders, 31% of 9th graders, and 10% of 7th graders report having gotten drunk at least once in their lifetimes. Nevertheless, the findings are good news for all concerned about the health, safety, and welfare of young people.
There are substantial decreases in the use of tobacco products and marijuana. In fact, the number of teens in the Miami Valley who have lifetime experience with cigarettes has reached its lowest level since 1990. For the first time since 1996, less than half of the 12th graders participating in DADS reported ever having used marijuana. Significant declines also occurred in the use of drugs like LSD and MDMA/ Ecstasy. Small decreases in lifetime alcohol consumption also occurred.
"It is likely that a number of factors have coalesced to bring about the reductions," said Russel Falck, M.A., DADS principal investigator and assistant professor in community health. "A trend running through all grade levels is the dramatic decrease in the use of tobacco cigarettes. Since tobacco is a gateway drug, declines in its use can have a ripple effect and lead to declines in the use of other drugs. A variety of factors have likely impacted tobacco use by young people, including educational programs like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, marginally-successful attempts to curb tobacco advertisements directed toward children, legal strictures targeting young smokers and those who sell to them, and the slow but continuing decline in adult smokers."
DADS is a biennial, cross-sectional study that provides estimates of teen drug use. It is a collaborative effort between the Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR) at the Wright State University School of Medicine, Unified Health Solutions, and area school districts. Districts choose which grades between 7 and 12 they want to survey. Students respond anonymously and on a voluntary basis. In late winter and early spring 2004, 21 schools from 13 districts in Montgomery, Greene, and Warren counties participated in DADS. More than 12,000 students were surveyed. The sample was overwhelmingly white (about 86%), suburban, and evenly split between boys and girls.
Among 12th graders, the most commonly used drug was alcohol with 76.2% reporting lifetime use, followed by tobacco cigarettes with 50.9%, and marijuana with 43.6%. A significant proportion (31.9%) reported consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row in the two weeks prior to the survey, and 4.1% reported consuming alcohol on a daily basis. The percentage of students smoking a half-pack of cigarettes or more a day declined to 8%, down from 10.9% in 2002. Daily marijuana use was reported by 5.9% of 12th graders, down from 8.8%. The use of non-prescribed opiate drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone was reported by 16.5%, while the use of tranquilizers such as aprazolam was reported by 16.9%, both down slightly from 2002.
Harvey Siegal, Ph.D., professor of community health and director of CITAR, said, "The DADS data on alcohol show how complex the problem of youthful drug use really is. Although there has been some decline in alcohol use among teens, it is not as sharp as the declines seen with tobacco and marijuana. The data therefore suggest that the vast majority of young people still see drinking as an acceptable behavior and many are at risk for very serious problems because of it. For example, recent studies of college students clearly point to increases in binge drinking and dangerous behaviors. The multi-faceted approach that has been effective with tobacco has not been applied to alcohol (the other gateway drug), particularly in regard to advertising."
The most commonly used drug among 9th graders was alcohol with 52.1% reporting lifetime use, followed by tobacco cigarettes with 30.1%, and marijuana with 20.9%. Smoking a half-pack of cigarettes or more per day was reported by 2.2%. Drinking five or more alcoholic drinks was reported by 11.8%. Among 7th graders, the most commonly used drugs were alcohol (28%), cigarettes (14%), and inhalants (9.2%). Lifetime marijuana use was reported by 5%.
When asked where and when alcohol and other drug use were most likely to occur, 32% of 12th graders said at a friend's house and 54% said at a party. The vast majority (91%) said use occurs on weekends. Similar percentages were reported by 9th and 7th grade students. John North, CEO of Unified Health Solutions, a major provider of substance abuse prevention services, said, "DADS data have consistently shown that the vast majority of teen substance abuse occurs away from school. This means that mothers and fathers play an important role in preventing drug use by their children, not only by the example they set, but because use is most likely to occur in and around their homes."
DADS covered non-drug issues, too, the time frame for which was the 30 days before the survey. Results show:
23.6% of 7th graders, 19.2% of 9th graders, and 11.2% of 12th graders felt bullied or harassed by other teens
16.2% of 7th graders, 11.8% of 9th graders, and 8.5% of 12th graders got into a physical fight with someone
3.1% of 7th graders, 5.7% of 9th graders, and 19% of 12th graders missed school without the permission of a parent or guardian
65.6% of 12th graders were employed outside of the home or school
About 85% of the students considered themselves to be happy or very happy with their lives while the remainder considered themselves to be unhappy or very unhappy
For more results, see the DADS webpage at http://www.med.wright.edu/citar/dads/
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