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Published: Saturday, 5/17/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

Study finds youth cigarette, alcohol, pot use all down in Wood County

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN — Wood County officials cheered results of a new study that showed use of cigarettes, alcohol, and some drugs have dropped among youth.

The 2014 Wood County Youth Survey, released at a Friday event at the Wood County Educational Service Center, marks a decade of biennial data gathering. The report was based on 8,441 surveys of fifth through 12th grade students in nine Wood County public schools.

This year’s results showed a smaller percent of students report using cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. LSD and heroin use ticked up slightly in some grades, though the number of students who reported using those drugs was small.

A “holistic approach” is to credit for the report’s good news, said its author William Ivoska, a retired vice president of student services at Owens Community College.

“It’s both the prevention programming in the schools on the one hand … as well as environmental changes — such as the seller-server training, the compliance checks, the mental health clinicians in the schools, all the information that’s been disseminated,” he said.

The report found cigarette use decreased in most grades. Seniors who smoked within the last 30 days dropped from 15.2 percent in 2012 to 9.7 percent this year. Seniors who approved of peers smoking tumbled from 31.2 percent to 21 percent over the last two years.

Alcohol use dropped among all grade levels. Annual alcohol use among seniors fell from 60.1 percent in 2012 to 51.7 percent in 2014. That’s down from 70.1 percent in 2004.

Alcohol remains young people’s “drug of choice,” according to the report.

Tim Atkins, Wood County chief assistant prosecutor in the juvenile division, handles fewer drinking party cases. The chairman of the Wood County Prevention Coalition, launched 10 years ago, also noted parents’ attitudes have shifted.

“It’s rarer to have a parent come in and feel that an alcohol charge is a waste of their time,” he said.

Marijuana use dropped or held steady among all grades. Seniors who reported using marijuana within the last month dropped from nearly 20 percent in 2012 to 14.8 percent in 2014.

Among seniors, 5.4 percent reported using LSD during the past year, compared with 3.5 percent in 2012. Heroin use inched up among seventh graders, juniors, and seniors. Among seniors, 1.8 percent reported using heroin in the past year compared with 1.5 percent two years ago.

The total number of seventh through 12th grade students who reported “some use” of heroin dropped from 52 people in 2012 to 41 in 2014.

The report also examined mental health and bullying. The percent of students reporting they had attempted suicide dropped, as did cyber-bullying reports.

Work will continue to refine prevention efforts and design programs based on the survey results, said Kyle Clark, a coalition member and a director at the educational service center.

The $6,000 survey was paid for with funds from the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board.

Penta Career Center student surveys were not included in the study. Mr. Ivoska said those surveys were omitted because not all the center’s students live in Wood County and because comparable national models do not use data from vocational schools.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.



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