Area teen substance abuse documented

Alcohol and tobacco remain the most prevalent forms of drug abuse for Miami Valley teens, according to the 2000 edition of the Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS). More than 80% of the survey's 12th graders reported experience with alcohol, and 67% had smoked cigarettes. Tobacco was used on a daily basis by 25% of the 12th graders; 14% smoked a half pack or more each day. There was virtually no difference between the numbers of boys and girls using tobacco. (See attached fact sheet for a complete gender breakdown.)

More than a third of the 12th graders reported they had consumed five or more alcoholic drinks on at least one occasion in the two weeks prior to DADS; 4% reported daily alcohol use.More than half of last spring's high school seniors used marijuana and 22% reported experience with hallucinogens. Daily marijuana use was reported by 7% of the high school seniors; daily use of non-prescription diet/stay-awake pills was reported by only 2% of the respondents.

Results from DADS 2000 present a mixed picture of drug involvement by area teenagers. Overall, it shows high levels of involvement on the part of last spring's high school seniors. In contrast, data from the freshman last spring show significant declines from previous 9th grade classes for marijuana and alcohol abuse. Among 7th grade students there was little change.

DADS is a collaborative effort between the Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR) at Wright State University School of Medicine, United Health Services (UHS), and Dayton-area school districts.

For DADS 2000, 9,892 young people contributed data. A total of 31 schools from 20 districts in Montgomery, Greene, Warren, and Clark counties participated. All of the schools can be characterized as serving suburban or exurban areas. Nearly 90% of the respondents are white and evenly split between boys and girls. The updated 2000 edition of DADS was shorter, containing 57 questions. For the first time DADS also addressed non drug-related topics such as bullying, fighting and carrying weapons. (See attached fact sheet.)

Among 12th graders, there was a notable decline in the abuse of inhalants and notable increases in the abuse of tranquilizers and opiates compared to 1998 DADS results. According to CITARS' Russel Falck, MA, assistant professor of community health who designed the study, three factors help explain the increases. "First, in many cases it is very difficult, if not impossible, for users to know the chemical make-up of certain types of illicit drugs, particularly illegally manufactured powders, pills, and liquids. Therefore, people report taking a drug that they may not have actually taken. This helps explain the apparent rise in heroin and other opiate use reflected in DADS since many users of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (a.k.a. MDMA, Ecstasy, XTC,) believe the compound contains opiates. In fact, there is substantial reason to believe that it does not, although there may be other contaminants. Two, there is evidence that the abuse of hallucinogenic drugs is at near record levels, at least in the Midwest. Three, data from other sources suggest that some young people have become involved with heroin smoking over the past couple of years. These factors suggest that the rise in opiate abuse, while real, is probably not as steep as our data indicate. The rise in the use of tranquilizers may be traceable to the increased availability and use of illicit drugs such as gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), over-the-counter preparations like dextromethorphan, and widely prescribed prescriptions drugs that can easily find their way out of the medicine cabinet."

Harvey Siegal, Ph.D., professor of community health and director of CITAR, notes, "The abuse of drugs such as MDMA by young people is indeed troubling, but I caution parents not to lose sight of the fact that in virtually all cases young people who get involved with these more exotic forms of drug abuse first get involved with alcohol and tobacco. Parents and schools must focus on preventing young people from getting involved with "gateway drugs" in order to prevent the use of drugs like MDMA, heroin and cocaine. It takes time, effort, and money, but effective prevention programs are available. It should be remembered that when we prevent youthful drug abuse we are preventing a host of other problems such as deadly accidents, sexual exploitation, and educational underachievement."

When compared with selected drugs from the 1999 edition of University of Michigan's nationwide Monitoring the Future study, DADS results show slightly higher levels of lifetime marijuana use and tobacco smoking and notably higher levels of lifetime hallucinogen use.

Local students also exceeded their national peers in the percent of students who reported having 5 or more alcoholic drinks in the two weeks before the study. Nearly identical percentages of local and national students reported smoking a half pack or more of cigarettes per day.

When 12th grade students, who reported they drank alcohol, were asked if they thought their parents knew they drank, 55% said their parents were "sure I don't" or "probably think I don't." That same question regarding the use of marijuana elicited a response of 82%. John North, President of UHS, said, "The apparent disconnect between what teens say they do and what parents think their children do is pretty significant. The data highlight the importance of parents taking an active role in preventing drug abuse by their children. The DADS data also show the vast majority of teenage drug abuse happens at someone's home. Parent's need to understand that that home is often their own home."

Students respond anonymously and on a voluntary basis. DADS is administered through participating school districts. Any school district in the Miami Valley area may participate at no charge and may choose which levels they want to survey between grades 7 and 12. DADS began as an annual survey in 1990 and has been conducted biennially since 1994. It is a cross-sectional study that provides estimates of youth drug use at one point in time. The same schools have not participated in the study over the years, a consideration when making general comparisons. DADS is supported, in part, by the Theda Clark Smith Foundation, Inc.

Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS) is a collaborative effort between the Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR) at Wright State University School of Medicine, United Health Services (UHS), and Dayton-area school districts.

Fact Sheet for DADS 2000 (Gender)
Important findings related to gender include:

  • There is no difference between the number of 12th grade boys and girls smoking tobacco ;
  • More boys (42%) than girls (30%) report being drunk at least once in the 30 days before the survey;
  • More boys (55%) than girls (50%) report lifetime experience with marijuana;
  • More boys (24%) than girls (21%) report the use of hallucinogens;
  • More girls (40%) than boys (25%) report lifetime experience with non-prescription diet/stay-awake pills.

Fact Sheet for DADS 2000 (Non Drug-Related)
Non drug-related issues of DADS 2000 revealed the following for bullying, fighting, carrying weapons, and perceived happiness:

  • 26% of 7th graders, 22% of 9th graders, and 12% of 12th graders said they had been bullied or harassed by other teenagers in the month before the survey;
  • 18% of 7th graders, 13% of 9th graders, and 8% of 12th graders said they had been in a physical fight with someone in the 30 days before responding to DADS;
  • Slightly more than 3% of the respondents, regardless of grade level, reported that they sometimes carried a weapon to school;
  • 13% of the 7th graders, 12% of the 9th graders, and 9% of the 12th graders reported sometimes carrying a weapon away from school. The type of weapon was not identified in the study.
  • Overall, about 82% of 7th graders, 86% of 9th graders, and 88% of 12th graders considered themselves to be happy or very happy when asked to consider how things were currently going for them.
Last edited on 04/09/2015.