January 1997

Local Teen Drug Use outpaces national norms

DAYTON, OHIO — Drug use by high school seniors in the Dayton area continues to increase, and local drug-use levels are notably higher than recently reported national averages, according to the latest Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS).

Comparing local and national averages for 1996, the DADS data indicates higher drug-use levels for cigarettes (65.2% vs. 63.5%), inhalants (19.2% vs. 16.6%), marijuana (48.2% vs. 44.9%), and hallucinogens (17.7% vs. 14.0%).

In addition, a larger percentage of Dayton-area students reported recent episodes of alcohol-induced drunkenness (32.9% vs.30.2%) than did their national peers.

Local increases are consistent with national increases reported in the 1996 Monitoring the Future study released in December by the University of Michigan.

"The trend of Miami Valley teens exceeding national norms has persisted for the last five years," says Russel Falck, an assistant professor of community health at Wright State University School of Medicine who designed the local survey.

DADS is a collaborative effort of the Substance Abuse Intervention Programs (SAIP) at Wright State University School of Medicine, United Health Services (UHS) and Dayton-area school districts. Data processing was provided by Wright State's Statistical Consulting Center. DADS began as an annual survey in 1990 and has been conducted biennially since 1994.

Researchers surveyed 1,898 students who were seniors in February 1996 at 12 high schools in Montgomery and Greene counties. In addition, 2,521 ninth graders and 1,845 seventh graders participated in the project. The students responded anonymously to a 81-item, self-report questionnaire.

According to Falck, the DADS sample was almost exclusively suburban and exurban. Nearly 90 percent of the students were white, and slightly more than half were female.

"The sample wasn't representative of all students in the Dayton area, but it provides a reasonable snapshot of drug-use practices of white, suburban youth," Falck explains.

Other results of the 1996 DADS

  • Alcohol remains the predominant drug of choice locally; 82 percent of high school seniors had drunk alcohol at least once in their lifetime without parental supervision; 33 percent reported having had at least five or more drinks in a row (a rough measure of drunkenness)at least once in the two weeks prior to the survey; and 4 percent said they drank alcohol on a daily basis.
  • Cigarette smoking follows alcohol in prevalence with 65 percent of the seniors reporting lifetime use; more than 20 percent reported smoking three or more cigarettes a day, and 16 percent reported smoking a half-pack or more per day.
  • Marijuana ranked third in prevalence; 48 percent of seniors reported smoking it at least once in their lifetime, and 7 percent reported daily use.

"Only a small percentage of students are likely to take drugs at school," says John North, a UHS program director who coordinated the survey with area schools. "The overwhelming majority of students surveyed said they used drugs at their homes, friends' homes , or at parties which are also at someone's home. This strongly suggests that parents can have an impact on young people's drug use by paying attention to what is going on in their homes."

"Although DADS cannot and should not be construed as an evaluation of local anti-drug efforts, the high levels of use reported are a clear call for the community to come together to take a hard look at our current prevention and intervention efforts," Harvey Siegal, Ph.D., SAIP director at Wright State.

For more information, see: DADS.