Results from the 2012 Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS) suggest a decrease in drug use among teens, but alcohol remains the most widely abused drug at all grade levels.
The 2012 survey consisted of the voluntary and anonymous completion of the DADS questionnaire by 15,734 students from seventh to 12th grade in 16 Dayton-area school districts. The majority of the sample was white (about 82 percent), and the group included almost equal numbers of boys and girls.
First administered in 1990, DADS is a biennial study conducted by the Department of Community Health’s Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research (CITAR) at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and area school districts.
The 2012 survey showed that alcohol is the drug abused by more young people than any other drug, even though its use has declined. The percentage of 12th graders who reported being drunk on alcohol at least once in their lifetimes decreased from 55.2 percent in 2010 to 50.3 percent in 2012.
Surpassing tobacco cigarettes, marijuana is now the second most widely used drug by high school students. The percentage of 12th graders who reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetimes was 43.9 percent as compared to 44.1 percent in 2010, essentially unchanged.
Tobacco cigarettes ranked third with 37.1 percent of 12th graders smoking at least once in their lifetimes, down from 41.6 percent in 2010. High school seniors who reported smoking at least one cigarette a day in the last month decreased to 8.3 percent. Levels of cigarette smoking also declined among ninth graders but remained unchanged among seventh graders.
“Although our data show that many types of teen drug use are decreasing, there is also good evidence that the percentage of teens who get drunk for the first time doubles between the ninth and 12th grades. Marijuana use also doubles,” said Russel Falck, associate professor of community health, who oversees DADS. “Because we know that many young people have very serious problems with drugs, there is a real need to implement ongoing drug abuse prevention programs in the schools that extend beyond the ninth grade, when such efforts often end. School is the place where large numbers of young people congregate, and there is strong evidence that initiation of drug use continues throughout the high school years. Thoughtful programs, which involve parents, can help prevent lots of problems.”
Of the 3,014 high school seniors surveyed, 67.4 percent reported drinking alcohol at least once in their lifetimes. Among the 50.3 percent who reported getting drunk at least once, 41.7 percent said they had done so 10 or more times. When asked whether they had ridden in a motor vehicle when they believed the driver was under the influence of alcohol or other non-medical drugs, 42.7 percent of high school seniors said they had. Furthermore, 24.2 percent of high school seniors reported that they had driven a motor vehicle while under the influence.
Among 12th graders, the survey indicated that there was a decrease in the use of smokeless tobacco, non-prescribed prescription opioids and tranquilizers, heroin, Ritalin, over-the-counter stay awake/weight loss agents, inhalants and nitrous oxide, cocaine HCI and dextromethorphan. Rates remained essentially unchanged for crack cocaine, steroids, hallucinogens and methamphetamine. Increases were noted for MDMA/ecstasy and amphetamine.
The 2012 survey also asked about the use of synthetic cannabinoids, salvia divinorum and bath salts, drugs that are known for their somewhat unpredictable effects. These drugs are now illegal in Ohio. The lifetime prevalence of synthetic cannabinoid use among 12th graders was 15.5 percent. The lifetime prevalence of bath salts use for 12th graders was 1.5 percent, with annual prevalence at 1.2 percent.
In addition to drug use, the survey covered non-drug issues. About 28.4 percent of seventh graders, 24.2 percent of ninth graders and 16 percent of 12th graders felt bullied by other teens. However, about 84 percent of seventh graders, 86 percent of ninth graders and 89 percent of 12th graders considered themselves to be happy or very happy with their lives.