Survey - More Teenagers Using Injected Drugs, Chewing Tobacco

By Abrad · Aug 2, 2006 ·
  1. Abrad
    Young people are using more smokeless and pipe tobacco and more injection drugs - and their drug use is having an adverse effect on their performance in school.

    In addition, more 12th graders are engaged in binge drinking.

    Those are among the findings in the 16th Annual Survey of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use by Indiana Children and Adolescents, conducted by the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University.

    The 2006 results were obtained from data collected from 131,017 students in grades six through 12 in both public and private schools in Indiana.

    The full report is available online at www.drugs.indiana. edu.

    The survey showed the use of cigarettes in grades 9 through 12 remained unchanged from the drop seen in 2005, but the use of smokeless tobacco increased in those grades, and pipe smoking increased in grades 10 through 12.

    Among 12th graders, for example, 9.8 percent admitted using smokeless tobacco at least once a month compared with 8.6 percent last year, and 4.6 percent said they smoked tobacco in pipes, up from 3.7 percent.

    Bloomington pediatrician Jim Laughlin said adolescents may be getting the message about the dangers of cigarette smoke.

    "That's a good sign, but there's a misconception among many young people that it's ( smokeless tobacco ) safe," he said. "They are still ingesting the main addictive component - nicotine - and there is still the risk of developing oral cancer."

    Shelia Evans, Bloomington Hospital's community health education program manager, said she was not surprised by the increase in smokeless tobacco use by young people.

    "The tobacco industry has been giving away free samples of smokeless tobacco at high school and college hangouts," she said. "And it is targeting communities with smoke-free ordinances."

    Evans said the marketing tool is disturbing because the concentration of nicotine in smokeless tobacco is higher than cigarettes, and that people can get addicted after using one can of chewing tobacco.

    Older Teens Using Hard Drugs

    Compared to last year, students in 12th grade were more likely to report having used heroin and psychedelics during the past month.

    However, reported use of inhalants decreased in grades six and eight, as did use of cocaine.

    Survey results among 12th graders indicated an increase, and an all-time high, in the monthly and lifetime practice of injecting drugs - 2.2 percent compared to a previous high of 1.8 percent.

    The most commonly injected drugs for this group were heroin, methamphetamine and steroids.

    "This trend is scary because these drugs are horribly addictive and increase the risk of contracting HIV and other diseases," Evans said. "When I talk to fifth-graders about how they can contract HIV by sharing needles, I ask them if they know anyone who uses IV drugs. Every time, a bunch of hands go up."

    Evans said she has already begun talking to local organizations about offering more treatment options for young people using opiates - such as heroin, OxyContin and morphine.

    "We're lucky that the MCCSC and R-BB school systems are trying to address this problem with research-based life skills curriculums," she said.

    12th Grade Binge Drinking

    The reported annual and lifetime use of alcohol declined among students in grades 10 and 12, adding to several years of steady decline.

    But students in 12th grade reported an increase in binge drinking for the first time since 1998.

    This year 27.3 percent admitted they had had at least five drinks in one sitting during the two weeks before they completed the survey, compared with 26.9 percent last year.

    "There's no question the incidence of binge drinking among high school and college kids is increasing," Laughlin said. "They drink to get drunk, which is a worrisome trend. It interferes with their performance in school, and can lead to alcoholism if they have that genetic tendency."

    Use Of Pot Declines

    Rates of marijuana use declined or held steady for all grades compared with the previous year, continuing a decade-long decline.

    Reported use during the past month is now roughly half the 1996 usage rates for grades six through nine.

    Only 5.6 percent of seventh graders, for example, used marijuana in 2006, compared to 11.5 percent in 1996.

    Use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana - considered gateway drugs that can lead to more dangerous drug usage - decreased or held steady for grades six, seven and eight.

    School Performance Suffers

    Students were asked about the consequences they experienced from using alcohol and other drugs.

    More than 1 in 10 students in grades eight through 12 reported having missed school because of drug use, and an even greater percentage of students in grades seven through 12 reported having performed poorly on a test or project as a result of drug use.

    Both violent behavior and weapon carrying were associated with use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana among Indiana youth.

    Students were asked about experiences with physical fights or strong arguments involving shouting, and about carrying a gun or other weapon to school. The strongest correlation was between alcohol use and violent interactions.

    After-School Activities Help

    Students involved in activities, such as playing on a sports team; participating in arts, music or drama programs; or supervised activities at youth centers, were less likely to use cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana.

    The results indicate an inverse relationship between the frequency of participation in after-school activities and the rate of gateway drug use.

    "I've always felt that if kids are involved in sports or band or show choir they will feel better about themselves and more connected - and less likely to use drugs and alcohol," Laughlin said.

    Drunk Driving, Fighting

    Nearly 16 percent of 11th-graders and 20.2 percent of 12th-graders reporting having driven while drunk.

    Approximately one in five respondents in grades nine through 12 also reported getting into a fight or argument as a result of drinking.

    Riding in a car driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol was reported by more than one in five respondents in grades nine through 12, with 26.1 percent of 12th graders reporting having been driven by someone who had been drinking.

    Gambling Down

    Compared to last year, the first in which data on gambling were collected, the reported prevalence of gambling decreased or remained the same across all grade levels. The youngest students were least likely to have gambled ( 35.4 percent of sixth-graders ), and the oldest students were most likely to have gambled ( 55 percent of 12th-graders ).

    In Brief

    The 16th Annual Survey of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use by Indiana Children and Adolescents shows that young people are using more smokeless and pipe tobacco and more injected drugs. In addition, more 12th graders are engaged in binge drinking.

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