Poll suggests smoking down, binge drinking still an issue

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Student Drug Use Survey results are out for first time since 2007

The Student Drug Use Survey is completed irregularly, roughly once every three or four years, and is meant to provide a snapshot view of alcohol use, drug use and high-risk activities by young people in the province.

This graphic outlines a percentage of students who have consumed at least five drinks in a single sitting in the 30-days prior to the survey being condicted by Student Drig Use Survey, 2012. — Submitted

The latest results were released Wednesday by the provincial government and show a lower overall number of students who — presented with questions with the promise of anonymity — said they used any illegal substances in the year prior to the survey.

In all, 46.6 per cent of the 2,530 students surveyed in 126 school classes across the province, from Grade 7 to Level III (Grade 12), said they had not used any drugs or alcohol in the year prior to the survey date in 2012.

That number is better than the 41.4 per cent who stated the same in 2007.

“Cigarette smoking amongst Newfoundland and Labrador students is at its lowest since 1996,” the latest report notes.

And more than half of students, 53 per cent, stated they did not drink alcohol within the past year.


Alcohol issues to be addressed

Yet. a notable 31.4 per cent of students admitted to binge drinking by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s definition, consuming five or more drinks in the 30 days before the survey date.

More students in Newfoundland and Labrador are experiencing being drunk, when compared with student responses to a similar survey in New Brunswick, where a full seven per cent fewer students said they had consumed alcohol to the point of becoming drunk.

Many counts are down here — including students with positive responses on the use of LSD, inhalants, psilocybin and mescaline — but about 30 per cent of respondents still stated they had used cannabis in the last year.

The use of ecstasy (MDMA) is up significantly since 2003, according to the report, but still accounts for only a small number of students, with just 5.7 per cent of those polled stating they had tried the drug in the year prior.


Survey used for school policy

“It is possible that substances used in previous years are being replaced by newer substances,” government staff note in the report.

“Keeping a close eye on emerging trends and their effects on health and well-being is important for the safety of both students and the general public.”

Health Minister Susan Sullivan committed government to using the survey results for the good of young people in the province.

“The survey results provide valuable insights into the behaviour of youth, and although there are some encouraging trends, it is imperative that we work with parents, schools and students, in particular, to create awareness of the pitfalls of substance use,” she said in a statement.

“Additionally, as the Christmas season approaches and alcohol and drug use tends to increase, I encourage parents to speak with their children about this very important issue.”

The results are expected to be used in the creation of school policies, programs and future campaigns related to substance use and high-risk behaviours.

The Student Drug Use Survey also included questions on mental health which are included in a related story on this page.



On The Survey



The Student Drug Use Survey was administered following a process of random selection of schools within the school districts, as they stood at the time of the survey. The responses in 2012 were scattered as follows:

- Eastern district — 870


- Nova Central district — 728 respondents

- Western district — 707


- Labrador district — 225


The responses were split fairly evenly between self-identified male and female students, with 46.5 per cent reporting as male and 51.1 per cent female.

As for grade level, responses were marked as follows:

- 572 Grade 7 students

- 587 Grade 9 students

- 793 Level I students

- 578 Level III students

No schools from coastal communities in Labrador were included, due to the random selection process, according to the report.


Source: Newfoundland and Labrador

2012 Student Drug Use Survey: Highlights Report, released Dec. 18, 2013.

Organizations: Public Health Agency of Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Brunswick, Nova Central

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