Latest survey of youth behavior shows increase in marijuana, drop in tobacco and alcohol

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2016 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Dr. Dan Webb, co-owner of Catalyst Research in Depew, goes over the latest survey of about 1,500 students in grades 7 through 12. He presented the survey results this morning during a meeting of the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition.

ALBION – The strong societal message against tobacco and alcohol seems to be working with big drops in use by youths in Orleans County from 2005 to 2015.

Every two years students in grades 7 through 12 are surveyed on their use of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. (Since 2013, students have been asked if they use non-prescribed prescription drugs as well, and in 2015 they were asked for the first time about e-cigarettes.)

Alcohol use among students has dropped from 28.1 percent in 2005 to 16.7 percent of 1,572 students in 2015. The survey includes students in Holley, Kendall, Lyndonville and Medina school districts. Albion does its own survey.

In the survey, students are asked if they used alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, non-prescribed medications and e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Alcohol use is down 41 percent in the decade, the biggest drop. It continues a steady downward trend from 23.6 percent in 2009, 20.3 percent in 2011, 19.1 percent in 2013 and 16.7 percent in 2015.

Tobacco use is down from 13.6 percent in 2005 to 8.5 percent in 2015, a 38 percent decline.

Marijuana use is down 14 percent since 2005, from 12.1 percent to 10.4 percent. However, it was at 9.3 percent in 2009 and has gradually increased to 10.2 percent in 2011, 10.3 percent in 2013, and 10.4 percent in 2015.

The marijuana number is lower than other communities that are seeing 15 to 20 percent use among students, said Dr. Dan Webb, co-owner of Catalyst Research, which compiles the data in the survey for the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition.

“Most of the numbers are going in the direction we want,” Webb told about 25 coalition members this morning during a meeting at the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

The survey shows some areas of concern, particularly with perception of risk by students. In 2005, 80.6 percent said they viewed marijuana use as risky and dangerous. But in 2015 that percentage dropped to 53.0 percent.

Students also reduced their perceptions of alcohol and tobacco risk with alcohol’s perception of risk down from 69.5 percent in 2005 to 65.4 percent last year. Tobacco also was viewed less harshly by students in 2015 (78.1 percent say it’s risky and dangerous) compared to 86.5 percent in 2005.

Parents, however, are perceived by students as being strongly opposed students using alcohol (95.6 percent), tobacco (93.9 percent) and marijuana (90.5 percent). That 90 percent threshold is important for keeping some students from trying the substances and products, Webb said.

Students reported more pressure from friends not to use tobacco or alcohol compared to 2005. However, the perception of friends’ disapproval for using marijuana dropped from 81.4 percent against in 2005 to 73.8 percent in 2015.

The coalition started asking students about non-prescribed medications in 2013 and 2.7 percent said then they had taken non-prescribed prescriptions in the previous 30 days. That percent increased to 3.4 percent in the latest survey.

Webb said e-cigarettes are proliferating with vape shops in many communities selling flavors of products like they are selling candy.

Nearly 30 percent of students, 29.2 percent, say they have tried an e-cigarette and 14.7 percent said they used one in the previous 30 days. The survey also asked if the students ever added substances to the e-cigarettes besides nicotine and 10.3 percent said they did.

The survey results will be shared with each participating school district, including a breakdown of the survey responses for each district. The district data will be shared confidentially with each district.

For more on the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition, click here.