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Drug survey results are presented

The 2002 Maryland Adolescent Survey shows that students in Washington County are abusing fewer drugs and alcohol.

The 2002 Maryland Adolescent Survey shows that students in Washington County are abusing fewer drugs and alcohol.

December 03, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Fewer 10th-graders in Washington County Public Schools are using Ecstasy and more eighth-graders are smoking cigarettes, but overall, fewer students are drinking than in years past, according to the 2002 Maryland Adolescent Survey presented Tuesday night at a county Board of Education meeting.

The survey, usually conducted every two years, questions public school students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 across Maryland about their use of drugs and alcohol, and their safety at home and at school. The most recent survey was taken in December 2002, and the previous survey was taken in April 2001. The next survey will be taken in the fall of 2005, said Bonnie Forsyth, health resource teacher and safe and drug-free schools coordinator.

Of the 5,681 Washington County students last year in the grades surveyed, 1,733 were questioned as part of a sample population taken from 15 schools. Eighty-two percent of those students returned their surveys.

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The report states that when compared to previous years, students are abusing fewer drugs and alcohol, but the numbers still are at or above state averages, Forsyth said.

She said Washington County usually is about three years behind state averages, saying that if the state drug use goes down now, the county likely will see that same trend in the next three years.

"We are so pleased this year because we are going down in every area," Forsyth said.

Fewer eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders have consumed alcohol than the last group of students surveyed - 5.5 percent fewer eighth-graders, 10.2 percent fewer 10th-graders and 7.9 percent fewer 12th-graders are drinking.

Binge drinking, which is categorized as five or more drinks on one occasion, decreased during the same time period among the grades surveyed.

The number of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders using designer drugs, such as Ecstasy, is down, especially among 10th-graders. The survey showed 10th-graders who said they've used those drugs in the past is down 5.8 percent and 10th-graders who say they use those drugs now is down 8.2 percent since the last survey was taken.

Lifetime and current use of cigarettes is down in grades six, 10 and 12, but lifetime and current use of cigarettes in grade eight has gone up 4.8 percent.

The number of high school seniors who have been a passenger in a vehicle with a driver under the influence of alcohol is down 3 percent since the last survey was taken.

Needle use to inject heroin, cocaine or other drugs is up 1 percent among all grades surveyed since the last survey was taken.

Use of inhalants among all grades surveyed is down 2 percent since the last survey was taken.

Students who reported using drugs or alcohol were more likely to say they can talk their parents out of punishment or are able to change the minds of their parents to get their way. Students who said they didn't abuse drugs were more likely to say their parents worry when they're late and that their parents are concerned about the friends they pick.

"If there is a shining star group in all of our statistics, it is our 10th-graders," Forsyth said.

She said eighth-graders are causing the greatest concern.

Forsyth said the school system will continue to use drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs such as DARE and Prom Promise to help prevent children from taking drugs. It also will reconvene an alcohol and drug task force, which will consider surveying parents on how they'd like to become more involved in their children's education.

"This problem is here," School Board Member W. Princeton Young said. "This problem is for real."

A therapist to adolescent children, Young said the availability of drugs to children is startling and that children are aware of their vulnerability.

Edward Masood, the school system's supervisor of fine arts, health, physical education and athletics, said there is a major concern that children are "pharming," or dipping their hands into bowls of prescription medicines at parties, and then ingesting them.

He said girls now are being seen at drug clinics as frequently as boys.

"This is not something that happens in other peoples' schools to other peoples' children," Masood said.

Washington County has participated in the survey since its inception in the 1970s, Forsyth said.

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