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Published: Friday, 5/16/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Youth smoking, drug and alcohol use down in Wood County

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN -- A survey of Wood County students released today showed a drop in cigarette, drug, and alcohol use among young people.

The 2014 Wood County Youth Survey, unveiled at the Wood County Educational Service Center, marks a decade of data gathering among public school students in grades 5th through 12th.

The report analyzed results from 8,441 surveys completed by students earlier this year in nine public schools in Wood County.

It found a decrease in the use of cigarettes within the last month among most grades. The percentage of seniors using cigarettes in the past 30 days dropped from 15.2 percent in 2012 to 9.7 percent this year, and the percentage of seniors who said they approved of cigarette smoking among teens dropped from 31.2 percent to 21 percent over the last two years.

This year’s survey asked students if they had used an electronic cigarette in the past 30 days, and 16.1 percent of seniors reported they had -- compared to only 2.4 percent of seventh graders.

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

Despite the decline, alcohol remains the “drug of choice” among Wood County youth, with the highest prevalence rate among drugs included in the survey, according to the report.

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

The survey reported slight upticks in LSD and heroin use among older students, though the number of students who reported using those drugs was small. Among seniors, 5.4 percent reported using LSD during the past year, compared to 3.5 percent in 2012.

Annual heroin use rates inched up among juniors and seniors, from 0.5 percent of juniors in 2012 to 0.8 percent in 2014. Among seniors, 1.8 percent reported heroin use this year compared to 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 people in 2014.

William Ivoska, the report’s author and a retired vice president of student services at Owens Community College, credited the good news to a “holistic approach” by county agencies, schools, law enforcement, and other prevention groups.

“It’s both the prevention programming in the schools on the one hand ... as well as environmental changes,” he said.

Among the environmental changes are alcohol compliance checks in local businesses, training servers who sell alcohol, and mental health support provided in schools.

The report also examined trends in mental health and bullying. The percent of students in grades seven through 12 reporting that they had attempted suicide dropped in all grades.

Those reporting they had been cyber-bullied also dropped among all grade levels.

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

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



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