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Study: Drug, alcohol abuse declines among middle, high students

By Staff | Nov 24, 2008

Overall drug and alcohol abuse among teenagers has declined, yet inhalants and over-the-counter drugs are being misused more commonly, according to the 2008 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.

The study looked at the characteristics of drug and alcohol use for approximately 90,000 males and females throughout the state. Participants were between the age of 10 and 19 and in middle or high school.

State agencies recently lauded significant student decreases in tobacco use and binge drinking.

Approximately 2,000 students from Lee County were part of the survey. This year, local students using alcohol decreased from 61.3 percent to 52.9 percent. Those smoking cigarettes went from 13.9 percent to 11.1 percent.

Keral Kronseder Vogt, executive director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug Free Southwest Florida, said there has been a substantial reduction over the past two to four years in alcohol use and binge drinking.

“It is tremendous news,” she said. “But I will say that alcohol and binge drinking has been a problem for many years. It has been a tremendous effort by the entire community to work to deliver one message to our youth.”

Marijuana use in Lee County also dropped from 25.6 percent to 21.4 percent, while statewide the percent of high school students using marijuana or hashish was 30.8 percent.

State anti-drug officials are monitoring the use of inhalants and over-the-counter drugs. Because of easier availability, these types of drugs have contributed to substance abuse among teens. The use of inhalants this year increased from 12.8 percent to 14.6 percent in Lee.

Middle school students statewide were asked for the first time this year if they have ever abused over-the-counter drugs such as cough medicine and 4.9 percent said they have.

Furthermore, 10.7 percent of Lee County students admitted to abusing prescription pain relievers in their lifetime.

“While drug use is down overall, parents need to be acutely alert to the dangers posed by legally accessible substances like inhalants, alcohol, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications,” said Bill Janes, director of the Office of Drug Control.

Teen perception regarding substance abuse significantly factors into whether they choose to use. When asked if drinking made them look “cool” in front of their peers, 12.2 percent of Lee County students said yes. In many instances peer pressure can be the driving force behind a teen’s choice to drink or use drugs.

Many students even use substances at school. According to the report, 12 percent of local students admitted to being drunk or high at school.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp released a statement last week that the survey is vital in understanding drug use patterns.

“Children are Florida’s most vulnerable residents and protecting them from the dangers of substance abuse is tremendously important,” said Kottkamp.