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WSU Boonshoft School of Medicine survey shows drug use declining among middle and high school students, but still a serious problem
By 12th grade, nearly 45 percent have tried illicit drugs; more than 70 percent have drunk alcohol
DAYTON, Ohio-Results of the 2008 Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS) indicate that fewer students have tried or regularly use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco than in past years, but overall use, especially among older students, remains a serious problem.
The 2008 survey consisted of a voluntary, anonymous questionnaire completed by 17,315 students from 7th to 12th grade in 17 Dayton area school districts. Roughly 83 percent of the respondents self-identified as white, most lived in suburban areas, and the group included nearly equal numbers of boys and girls.
First administered in 1990, DADS is a biennial study conducted by the Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR) at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in collaboration with Unified Health Solutions and area school districts.
The 2008 survey found that alcohol remains the most widely used drug. More than 70 percent of 12th graders reported having tried alcohol, 54.3 percent have been drunk at least once, and 27.2 percent had five or more drinks in a row during the two weeks before the survey. Among 9th graders, 45.7 percent have tried alcohol, 24.7 percent have been drunk, and 9 percent had five or more drinks in a row in the previous two weeks. The corresponding percentages for 7th graders are 21.2 percent, 6.2 percent, and 2.5 percent, respectively.
Among high school seniors, 39.8 percent reported any cigarette use, down from 43.4 percent in 2006. Similar decreases occurred among 9th and 7th graders. While fewer students are smoking, rates of daily or heavy smoking were essentially unchanged.
"Teenagers' use of alcohol and tobacco is significant, because it can result in a variety of serious and lasting health and social consequences," said Russel Falck, M.A., assistant professor of community health and associate director of CITAR. "In addition, tobacco and alcohol are 'gateway drugs,' whose use can lead to abuse of other drugs."
By 12th grade, 44.3 percent of students have used an illicit drug at least once, including 39.4 percent who have tried marijuana/hashish (a slight decline from 2006). Among younger students, 16.2 percent of 9th graders and fewer than 2 percent of 7th graders report having tried marijuana/hashish. Experience with other illicit drugs by 12th graders varied, with decreases in the percentage who have tried cocaine HCl, crack, and methamphetamine, and slight increases for prescription opiates or tranquilizers, MDMA (ecstasy), and heroin.
The survey also covered behaviors and attitudes aside from drug use. For instance, among high school seniors, 45.8 percent reported riding in a vehicle when they believed the driver was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and 28.7 percent reported driving under the influence themselves. In the 30 days prior to the survey, 26.5 percent of 7th graders, 22.8 percent of 9th graders, and 12.3 percent of 12th graders felt bullied by other teens, and 16.4 percent, 12.1 percent, and 7.8 percent, respectively, got into a physical fight with someone. During the same time period, 4 percent of 7th graders, 5.7 percent of 9th graders, and 14.8 percent of 12th graders missed school without permission.
On a positive note, some 89.1 percent of students currently consider themselves happy or very happy with their lives.
For a complete summary of the 2008 DADS and numerous data tables, visit www.med.wright.edu/citar/dads/