Survey Says… Teens tend to Drive or Ride Under the Influence

Dayton, Ohio-For the first time in the sixteen-year history of the Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS), 12th grade students were queried on drug use and motor vehicle behavior. When asked if they had ridden in a motor vehicle when they believed the driver was under the influence of alcohol or other non-medical drugs (other than caffeine or tobacco), 46% said they had. Twenty-eight percent reported that they had done so more than once or twice. When asked if they had driven a motor vehicle under the influence, 31% reported they had, and 18% reported they had done so more than once or twice.

DADS is a biennial, cross-sectional study that provides estimates of drug, tobacco, and alcohol abuse along with other issues, among teens in the Miami Valley area. The survey of area adolescents is a collaborative effort between area school districts, the Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR) at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, and United Health Solutions. It has been conducted since 1990, and area schools are invited to participate on a no-charge basis. Students voluntarily respond anonymously to a 63-item, self-report questionnaire.

"The findings on alcohol consumption are particularly worrisome," says Russel Falck, assistant professor of community health and the principal investigator for the survey. "While it is generally recognized that tobacco and other non-medical drug use are harmful to health, alcohol is widely promoted and used in our society. Consequently, attitudes towards its use are more tolerant than they are towards the use of other drugs."

Recent and emerging research on alcohol use and brain development in adolescents suggests that alcohol, heavy use in particular, is fraught with long term, adverse consequences. Research also suggests that young people who get involved with alcohol while they are young teens have a much higher likelihood of becoming alcoholics than those who postpone drinking until they are older. 2006 DADS data show that the vast majority of young people still see drinking alcohol as acceptable behavior. The multi-faceted approach that has been effective with tobacco has not been applied to alcohol, particularly in regard to advertising. Imposing restrictions on alcohol advertising as part of a comprehensive effort to change teens' attitudes toward alcohol as well as their drinking practices should be seriously considered.

When asked to identify the single most common source of alcoholic beverages for young people, 51% of 12th graders reported parties without parents present, 21% said adult siblings, 17% said stores, and 7% said parents.

DADS data on the degree of harmfulness young people attribute to selected drugs are instructive. For example, 77% of 7th graders see tobacco use as very harmful, while only 47% see alcohol that way. By grade 12, there is some erosion with tobacco, with 63% seeing its use as very harmful, while only 25% see alcohol use as very harmful. This data suggest there may be value providing substance abuse prevention programming throughout high school. Currently, statistics show the most intense substance abuse prevention efforts end by the 8th or 9th grade.

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Last edited on 12/15/2014.