Drug use down among Seymour students

A recent survey of Seymour High School students shows the good and bad when it comes to drug, alcohol and tobacco use.

The good news is that on average more than 90 percent of freshmen through seniors said they had never used illicit drugs other than marijuana, said Kate DuBois, assistant high school principal.

The rates for tobacco and alcohol use in most grades, however, were higher than the state figure, and binge drinking among freshmen also was higher, according to the survey.

DuBois said she agrees with the results of the survey that most high school-age students are not using illegal drugs.

According to the data, 97 percent of freshmen and sophomores said they’d

never used illegal drugs other than marijuana. The figures were 96 percent for juniors and 94 percent for seniors.

“Most teens don’t, and neither do students at SHS,” DuBois said of illicit drug use.

DuBois presented results from the 2014 Indiana Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use survey at a school board meeting this week. The school has participated in the survey, which is conducted by the Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington, on and off since 1994. It has administered the survey regularly since 2011.

Although the school’s percentage of students using alcohol ever and monthly has steadily declined since the early 1990s, the percentage consistently remains above the state and national levels.

Among freshmen, 45.9 percent reported having consumed alcohol sometime. The figure is up slightly from 2013, when 45.1 percent said they had. It’s a huge decrease from 1994, though, when 78.8 percent of freshmen said they had consumed alcohol. The state average is 12.1 percent, according to the survey.

The number of sophomores reporting they had consumed alcohol dropped from 61.9 percent in 2013 to 53.2 percent this year. In 1994, the percentage was 80.6 percent. The state figure is 18.8 percent.

Among juniors, the level increased from 59.9 percent last year to 61.6 percent this year, still higher than the

53.8 percent state figure. And for the senior class, 67.2 percent reported they had consumed alcohol, a slight decrease from the 67.5 percent in 2013. The state figure is 61.7 percent, and the national figure is 88.2 percent.

Brenda Turner, director of the Jackson County Drug-Free Council, said DuBois recently presented the survey results to her agency.

The high school is working with the drug-free council along with the new Call to Action initiative spearheaded by Schneck Medical Center to address drug use in the schools and community.

“Our goal is to continue to target interventions that will affect positive outcomes for teen decision-making and choices regarding difficult and challenging situations,” DuBois said.

Turner said she is encouraged by the information, but there is much work to do.

“We’re making some headway, especially on reducing alcohol use,” Turner said.

The increase in the rate from freshmen and sophomores to juniors and seniors who say they have consumed alcohol has to do with students’ perception of risk, she added. As students get older, they don’t think there is much danger in it, she said.

“There still has to be a

focus on encouraging minors not to use alcohol and parents not to provide alcohol to their children,” Turner said.

When it comes to cigarettes, usage is down across the board, according to the survey results, with 24.8 percent of freshmen reporting they had smoked a cigarette, compared with 33 percent in 2013. The state figure is

19.2 percent.

Turner said she expects the drop is a result of laws that prohibit smoking in public places.

“It’s just not as publicly accepted as it used to be,”

she said.

For sophomores, the percentage of students who said they ever had smoked a cigarette decreased from

36.3 percent in 2013 to 32.5 percent this year. That amount is still significantly higher than the state figure of 25.4 percent.

The percentage of juniors dropped from 41.8 percent last year reporting they had smoked a cigarette to

35.8 percent this year. The state figure is 30.2 percent.

For seniors, the percentage dropped from 47.5 percent in 2013 to 43.7 percent this year. The amount is still higher than the state and national levels.

The results are an important tool for the school and community to get an idea of what types of drugs are the biggest problems among students, DuBois said.

Survey questions cover several factors, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipes, alcohol, marijuana, synthetic marijuana, cocaine, crack, inhalants, methamphetamine, heroin, steroids, ecstasy, hallucinogens, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.

Marijuana use declined among freshmen, sophomores and juniors but increased among seniors.

A total of 29.3 percent of juniors reported having ever used marijuana, which was lower than the state figure of 32.1 percent. The percentage of seniors using marijuana increased to 39.1 percent this year, which was higher than the 37.4 percent state figure but lower than the national level of 45.5 percent.

Turner said the survey results provide detailed and valuable information about students in Seymour.

“This is about kids in our community, and the information helps us support things like the random drug screenings the high school does,” she said.

Students take the survey anonymously, which DuBois said is one reason the data is seen as accurate.

“There’s no reason for them to lie,” she said.

Another important fact gathered from the data is the age when kids first use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

The 2014 results showed that the mean age of first-time use ranged from 13.6 for cigarettes and over-the-counter drugs to 15.4 for methamphetamine.

Students will take the 2015 survey Feb. 24.

Turner said students at Brownstown Central High School will participate in the survey next year.

“We encourage all the high schools to take the survey,” Turner said.

At a glance

Lifetime use of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs 2014

(Values expressed as percentages)

Seymour High School

Ninth grade

Drug;2011;2012;2013;2014 (state)

Cigarettes;34.2;30.0;33.0;24.8 (4.7)

Alcohol;56.3;51.0;45.1;45.9 (12.1)

Marijuana;23.6;23.4;24.9;21.8 (2.7)

Prescription drugs;9.9;7.6;10.3;7.9 (1.4)

10th grade

Cigarettes;40.0;41.1;36.3;32.5 (8.3)

Alcohol;60.0;57.3;61.9;53.2 (18.8)

Marijuana;29.2;32.7;28.1;27.0 (5.5)

Prescription drugs;8.4;17.3;11.1;12.3 (2.3)

11th grade

Cigarettes;45.1;41.6;41.8;35.8 (30.2)

Alcohol;67.9;61.2;59.9;61.6; (53.8)

Marijuana;33.5;29.7;34.9;29.3 (32.1)

Prescription drugs;15.8;15.1;16.8;8.2 (11.9)

12th grade

Cigarettes;51.2;42.5;47.5;43.7 (34.9)

Alcohol;64.4;64.9;67.5;67.2 (61.7)

Marijuana;38.0;30.5;36.3;39.1 (37.4)

Prescription drugs;10.7;17.2;15.0;17.2 (13.5)

SOURCE: Annual Survey of Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drug Use by Indiana Children and Adolescents, conducted by the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.