Survey: drug use declining

A survey of middle and high school students in the Shelby County School System shows that alcohol, illicit drug, tobacco, cigarettes, marijuana and beer use are down from the previous year and below the national average overall.

However,

the use of illicit drugs or marijuana

at least once within the past year is up among sixth grade students.

According to

Shelby County Student Services Coordinator Ken Mobley, &uot;The research shows us intervention is most needed at the middle school level. If we don’t reach them there, it is often too late.&uot;

Still, the overall results are encouraging in light of school officials’ efforts to put more emphasis on drug prevention in recent years, according to Cindy Warner, public relations supervisor for Shelby County Schools.

According to information provided by

Warner, Shelby County students had a 7.6 percent decline in illegal drug use compared to the national average, which rose by 2 percent. And the results were based on the &uot;Pride Survey,&uot; a standardized survey given nationally to middle and high school students.

Mobley reports that some 7,229 students in grades 6-11 participated in the survey, which records the number of students who admit to drinking alcohol or beer and or using illicit drugs, marijuana, tobacco or cigarettes on a monthly basis or within the past year.

&uot;They don’t have to put their name on the survey, so students are able to answer truthfully without fear that anyone will know what their responses were,&uot; Mobley said. &uot;These results are encouraging in that it shows that we are making progress thorough our Safe and Drug Free Schools campaign on impacting the attitudes of students regarding drug and alcohol usage, despite societal problems and pressures.&uot;

According to

Warner, some programs used in Shelby County Schools are chemical awareness and prevention (CAP) programs at each school; DARE (Drug Awareness Resistance and Education) programs in elementary schools; intensive school counseling programs like Red Ribbon Week; mandatory drug testing of students who participate in extra curricular activities or park on the school campus, and voluntary student drug testing through SWAT (Student War Against Temptation).

Mobley explains, &uot;SWAT is a voluntary drug testing program that parents and student agree to sign up for. Students are randomly tested for drugs and alcohol and the results of the test are then sent to the parents. The school system never sees the results. We see that it has made a difference at Oak Mountain High School and we are confident that we will see it make an impact at our other schools, also.&uot;

Warner reports that SWAT originated at OMHS in 2001 when parents, community leaders and administrators admitted that there was a need for new and innovating approaches to fighting the drug problem. The program was expanded to all high schools and middle school last year.

According to the survey, OMHS showed a decline in every category for which information was available and was below the national high school average. The percentage of students who reported drinking alcohol monthly dropped 5.6 percent compared to last year and was 10.3 percent below the national average. And the percentage of students who used tobacco within the past year dropped 7.1 compared to last year and was 8.1 percent below the national average.

Also down at Oak Mountain were use of substances such as marijuana and cocaine both monthly and within the past year.

According to the survey 32.5 percent used tobacco in the past year, down from 39.6 percent

from

the previous year and below a national average of 40.6 percent. Some 22 percent used marijuana within the past year, below the 27 percent from the previous year and a national average of 30.3 percent. And about 5.4 percent used cocaine within the past year, down from the 6.4 percent of one year ago and below the national average of 6.4 percent.

The percentage of students who used

any illicit drugs within the past year

at OMHS is now 8.5 percent below the national average. And the percentage who used alcohol within the past year is now 13.6 percent below the national average.

Overall Middle School students showed decreased usage in every category

over the past year and were below the national average in usage.

However, the middle school survey results for sixth grade students show an increase in illicit drug use or marijuana use within the past year and were above the national average.

Some 6.7 percent admitted to using illicit drugs compared to 6.3 percent the previous year and a national average of 5.9 percent. Also 3 percent admitted to using marijuana compared to 2.7 the previous year and a national average of 2.9.

While cigarette use among sixth graders during the past year was up 7.5 compared to 7.4 percent, it was below the national average of 8 percent.

Alcohol use among sixth graders was down in the past year and below the national average.

The number of seventh graders who used alcohol at least once in the past year was up slightly over the previous year (28 percent compared to 27.5 percent) but below the national average of 33 percent.

Also the number of ninth grade students who used illicit drugs within the past year was up slightly over the pervious year at 21.1 percent compared to 20.8 but below the national average