Drug use among 8th-graders rising

Surveys show almost triple the number of pupils acknowledge taking narcotics than in 2002

October 30, 2005|By GINA DAVIS | GINA DAVIS,SUN REPORTER

While a decline in overall drug and alcohol use among Carroll County's middle and high school students mirrors a statewide trend, local school and law enforcement officials said they are alarmed by figures that show eighth-graders' use of illicit drugs -- namely, heroin and other narcotics -- has nearly tripled during the past two years.

In 2002, the number of eighth-graders who reported having used heroin in the past 30 days stood at nine pupils.

By last year, 26 pupils acknowledged using the drug, according to a 2004 survey of adolescents released last week.

With narcotics, which includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs, the number of eighth-graders who had used them in the past 30 days in 2002 was seven pupils -- a number that had grown to 21 by last year.

"It's a small number of kids, but the proportion" in the increase of use is troubling, Anna M. Bible, the school system's coordinator of safe and drug-free schools, said during a news conference to release the local results. "It's something to watch."

The survey, which has been conducted by the Maryland State Department of Education every two years since 1994, is voluntary and anonymous for students.

In Carroll, the survey was sent to nearly 1,900 students last December. Local school officials said 89 percent of those students participated in the survey -- the second-highest response rate among the state's 24 school districts.

"Even though the heroin increases are marginal, we're still seeing increases," said David J. Tucker, Carroll County supervisor for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice. "Heroin is an issue that continues to bedevil this county."

Carroll County Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning noted that during the mid-1990s, the county experienced a "heroin epidemic" among students in their mid- to late teens, and he recalled several overdose-related deaths.

About four years later, he said, the county's detention center began to see an increase in its incarceration rates, especially among women -- a result that he attributed to heroin abuse.

"Ten years down the road, we're still seeing this problem," said Tregoning, who has been with the sheriff's department since 1998.

The survey also uncovered alcohol use among 12th-graders that is significantly higher than the state average. In Carroll, 50.4 percent of 12th-graders reported that they had had a drink within 30 days of filling out the survey, as compared with a statewide average of 44.1 percent.

Bible said that although the survey's findings on alcohol use among 12th-graders are disturbing, she is less concerned about those results because those students -- who should have graduated last spring -- are likely no longer in the school system.

However, she strongly recommended that school officials continue efforts to stem the use of drugs and alcohol with such resources as the youth intervention program, created last year.

The program sends local police officers into schools to teach pupils about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. These officers visit second-, fourth-, sixth- and eighth-graders as well as pupils taking Health I in high school, Bible said.

She said that while students in 11th and 12th grades are required to participate in a three-hour drug symposium before graduating, that may not be enough.

"I would like to add something more intensive" for 11th- and 12th-graders, Bible said. "The research says if you remind them every other year, it reinforces the message."

Bible pointed to the survey's findings that students acknowledge they are not resisting peer pressure as much as they should. "More adolescents are reporting that they are being taught to say no," she said. "But they are not saying no."

Statewide, the survey showed less substance abuse among children whose families ate together once a day, although less than a third of all children said their families do so.

"Children have too much time alone, when they are not being properly supervised or monitored," Tregoning said. "There are also a lot of children who have jobs. I don't believe parents are aware of the amount of money their children have to spend."

gina.davis@baltsun.com

In one ear, out the other

Adolescents reported that while they are being taught how to say no to drugs and alcohol, they are not doing so as well as they should.

Being taught steps in school to avoid drinking alcohol

6th grade .......... 8th grade ........... 10th grade ..............12th grade

84% ...................... 89% .................... 88% ......................... 85%

Used steps to say no (remainder includes those not offered alcohol)

6th grade .......... 8th grade ........... 10th grade ..............12th grade

44% ..................... 38% .................... 38% ......................... 54%

Being taught steps in school to avoid using illegal drugs

6th grade .......... 8th grade ........... 10th grade ..............12th grade

89% ...................... 92% .................... 92% ........................ 91%

Used steps to say no (remainder includes those not offered illegal drugs)

6th grade .......... 8th grade ........... 10th grade ..............12th grade

43% ...................... 43% .................... 51% ........................ 66%

Source: Carroll County Public Schools, Maryland Adolescent Survey

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.