A new survey of ABSS students indicates that alcohol is the drug of choice among teens
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 11/18/13  
Reprinted with permission.      

Protective Factors  

   MEBANE — It’s good news/bad news. Drug use is up since 2009 among students in Alamance-Burlington schools, but they are not taking drugs at school.

   They also feel safe in school, according to a student survey.

   Students reported taking drugs at a friend’s house or at their own more than almost anywhere else.

   “The easiest place for kids to get beer is right next to the milk,” said Barbara Carlton, prevention specialist with the Alamance-Burlington School System. “They get it at home or at a friend’s house.”

   Carlton presented a survey on student drug use to the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education at its November work session.

   The survey included almost 2,000 local middle and high school students. It shows an increase from 2009 to 2013 in the percentage of students who said they had, in the previous 30 days, used alcohol, up from 14 to 18 percent, marijuana, up from 8 to 13 percent, and prescription drugs, up from 2 to 4 percent.

   Tobacco use dropped from 12 to 10.5 percent since a peak in 2011. Carlton credited the schools’ 100 percent-free policy with that improvement.

  Drug Use

   THE SCHOOL SYSTEM conducted the survey mostly in health classes, Carlton said.

   No adults could read the completed surveys until they arrived at the Ohio company that compiled the results.

   The survey also showed ABSS 12th-graders reported higher rates of alcohol, marijuana and tobacco use in the previous 30 days than 12th-graders did in a national survey, but less prescription drug use.

   Almost 23 percent of ABSS seniors surveyed admitted to using tobacco, compared to 20 percent nationally.

   Twenty-five percent in the local survey admitted to using marijuana, compared to 22 percent nationally.

   Alcohol was the most-used drug. Forty percent of ABSS seniors admitted to drinking in the previous 30 days, compared to 35 percent nationally.

“Forty percent of 12th-graders have used alcohol in the last 30 days,” Carlton said, “and that’s alarming to me.” The details in the survey, Carlton said, suggest some ways to keep kids away from drugs.

   Unsupervised time is when young people get into trouble, Carlton said, so cut down on it.

   “A lot of parents try to back off when their kids get into high school …,” Carlton said. “Get into their business.”

   Parents should tell their children about their own checkered pasts and why they do not want their children to make the same mistakes, Carlton said. They will find out anyway.

   Get to know the parents of your children’s friends, Carlton said, and eat dinner with your children.

   Among the good news in the survey is a growing sense of safety in school.

   More students reported feeling safe in schools than they did in 2009, but specific percentages for comparison were not reported to the board.

   On the high end, almost 89 percent of students surveyed said they felt safe in class, while on the low end, less than 71 percent said they felt safe on the school bus.

   “The less monitoring by an adult, the more bullying,” Carlton said.

   A small percentage of local students claimed gang affiliations, close to 6 percent according to the survey, compared to 9 percent nationally.

   Carlton said parents need to watch for that point in middle school when children start to crave risk, and let them have risk. Some can get it out with sports. Not all kids are athletic, but still need an outlet.

   “Encourage kids to do something that puts their lives in danger, kids love that,” Carlton said. “Instead of drugs, go rock climbing. Fill in the blank with something like that, that’s age appropriate and with supervision.”