When it comes to substance abuse, parents need to get more involved with their school-aged children.
Only 54 percent of the students surveyed believe their parents would disapprove of them drinking alcohol.
November 16, 2009. East Brunswick, NJ – More than half of Middlesex County middle and high school students have indulged in alcohol, 22 percent have tried smoking cigarettes and 18 percent have tried marijuana. Many of these respondents have done so without their parent's knowledge in the past year.
These figures and a host of others detailing the health practices of Middlesex County students was gleaned from the 2008 Middlesex County Student Survey, administered by the Coalition for Healthy Communities, whose findings were recently released. The Coalition for Healthy Communities is an initiative of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) of Middlesex County, Inc.
Of the 6th through 12th grades surveyed, 28 percent had a drink in the past 30 days. Of those who tried alcohol for the first time, 45 percent had done so BEFORE the age of twelve. Along the same line, slightly more than eight percent of students surveyed smoked and/or used a tobacco product in the last 30 days. Eleven percent used marijuana in the past 30 days, and five percent admitted to the use of medications to get high.
The survey revealed that students perceive that their parents disapprove of youth tobacco and marijuana use more than youth alcohol use. For example, 81 percent of students stated their parents would disapprove of them smoking cigarettes and 85 percent believed their parents would disapprove of them using marijuana. These very high rates of perceived parental disapproval of tobacco and marijuana use contrasts sharply to the perceived parental disapproval when it comes to trying alcohol. Only 54 percent of the students surveyed believe their parents would disapprove of them drinking alcohol.
- NCADD CEO & Executive Director Steven G. Liga noted, "We could infer from these comparisons that parents' permissive attitudes towards alcohol consumption make underage drinking all that more probable." And national data suggests that while youth tobacco and marijuana use are steadily declining, underage drinking continues to be a major societal issue.
Additional findings of note include:
A friend's home is the place most likely for students to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol.
Parents who are not home to supervise their children when their children's friends visit and vice-a-versa are inadvertently facilitating the use of these illegal substances. The car is the second most popular place for marijuana use.
- The success of making students aware of substance abuse, particularly the dangers of tobacco, demonstrates that awareness and prevention can work.
- Prevention and awareness, however, require constant effort and focus. The earlier the effort and focus in the educational process, the greater the probability of success.
- The survey indicated that in 2008, Middlesex County students had an almost 46 percent chance of being with a peer who smokes or uses a tobacco product, a fifty-five percent chance of being with other kids who drink alcohol, and almost 34 percent indicated that they have been with kids smoking marijuana.
The survey also indicated that the majority of students surveyed understand the dangers associated with overuse of alcohol, tobacco or drugs. Seventy percent of students recognize the dangers of over-indulging alcohol (having four to five drinks every day), smoking a half pack of cigarettes or smoking marijuana more than once a week.
There was one significant finding in the survey that should empower parents: the greater the parental disapproval, the less likely children will use drugs. Even those who experiment with substances are likely to do it later if parents disapprove.
Liga noted, "This seemingly common sense finding confirms that parents still play a crucial role in the likelihood of their children drinking, smoking or using drugs. With this knowledge, we hope parents take action."
Unfortunately, parents do less than they think. According to The Partnership for a Drug Free America's 2008 PATS survey, while 63 percent of parents say they regularly talk to their children about alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues, only 37 percent of children confirm having these conversations.
A total of 463 random Middlesex County students in 28 classrooms ranging from the 6th to the 12th grades from 29 schools participated in the 2008 survey. The Coalition for Healthy Communities conducted the survey during September and November 2008. The survey was administered by trained personnel that already work in the County's schools. No personal identifying questions or data were associated with the students responding to the survey, and all completed surveys were placed in an unlabeled and sealed envelope upon completion. The collected data was analyzed by independent evaluators (Program Services Associates of Long Island) who used methods that guaranteed the confidentiality and anonymity of individual students and schools.
About NCADD of Middlesex County
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) of Middlesex County, Inc. is a non-profit health education organization. Established in 1980, NCADD is recognized as the leading resource in Middlesex County for information, education and prevention services on alcohol and drug abuse. Services include: the Jason Surks Memorial Prevention Resource Center, information and referral help line, training, community education programs, early childhood prevention programs Footprints for Life, and Forest Friends, advocacy for alcoholics and other drug dependent persons and their families, and public awareness campaigns. Additional information is available at www.ncadd-middlesex.org.
About the Coalition for Healthy Communities
The Coalition for Healthy Communities is a program of NCADD of Middlesex County, Inc. The mission of the Coalition is to reduce substance abuse, especially among youth, by providing opportunities for increased collaboration, coordinated planning, and sharing of resources, thereby maximizing the quality and availability of services to the communities and residents of Middlesex County. Members of the Coalition include law enforcement officers, healthcare professionals, university personnel, local government officials, parents, youth, school personnel, prevention and treatment professionals, and faith leaders.