Pubdate: Wed, 01 Oct 2003
Source: Valley Echo, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 The Valley Echo
Author: Colin McGarrigle


The most comprehensive study on drug use among adolescents in the East 
Kootenay has just been released -- and the news is not too encouraging.

After noticing an increase in youth referrals for cocaine and other 
chemical use, staff at the East Kootenay Alcohol and Drug Counselling 
Service Society (EKADCSS) decided to investigate statistics to see if this 
problem was a common trend in youth.

Unfortunately, any statistical information available was outdated and 
incomplete, which prompted EKADCSS to conduct a survey in November 2002 on 
drug use for students in Grades 8 to 12 in the entire East Kootenay region.

The report shows that alcohol and marijuana use is much higher in the 
Invermere area compared to the rest of the region.

Statistics provided at a meeting of the Community Vision Action Team Sept. 
25 stated that 87% of Invermere high school students have consumed alcohol, 
compared to 77% in the region and 53% have tried marijuana, again higher 
than the 44% regional average. "We heard rumours that cocaine use was 
increasing, but we actually found that it is the same or decreased from a 
survey conducted in 1998.

"We also found that out of those who do use alcohol or marijuana are using 
it mostly for recreational or social purposes," explained Dean Nicholson, 
administrator for the EKADCSS.

One surprising fact to come from the study was that more girls than boys 
were meddling with some of the harder drugs and boys consumed more alcohol 
and marijuana.

"More girls reported experimenting with cocaine (7.8% vs. 5.9%), crystal 
methamphetamine (3.4% vs. 2.6%), LSD (6.9% vs. 6.0%) and prescription drugs 
(13.5% vs. 10.2%)," stated the report.

Not surprisingly, the study found that substance abuse increased with age, 
both in terms of the number of substances tried, number of times used and 
frequency of use.

Almost 15% of Grade 8 students admitted to using marijuana and a shocking 
two percent said they had tried cocaine. Grade 12 students had much higher 
statistics as 66.7% had tried marijuana and 14.1% have dabbled in cocaine.

"The report shows that on any given day, in any given class, three or four 
of those students have smoked marijuana that day. "We really worry about 
this because they are cheating themselves out of a good education," said 

Another startling fact was that among those who did use drugs or alcohol, 
39.9% of Invermere students stated that they used them with family members 
and another 18.1% used them with strangers.

"Using drugs with strangers opens kids up to a whole pile of problems. In 
some cases that could lead to sexual exploitation," said Nicholson.

One promising statistic to come from the study was that almost 20% said 
they had never used any drugs or alcohol.

"Family structure had a lot to do with drug or alcohol consumption. Kids 
who live with both parents had the lowest drug use, where as those who live 
with a single parent or in a foster home showed an increase," stated Nicholson.

While cocaine use has not significantly increased in recent years, most 
youth view cocaine as a problem for their peers.

"Unlike alcohol or marijuana, where many of the problem behaviours may be 
considered as somewhat normal by users, students who begin abusing cocaine 
will very quickly engage in behaviours that are seen as unacceptable by 
peers," stated the report.

Some who attended the meeting wondered if high drug and alcohol use might 
be linked to the tourism industry because of the party atmosphere that the 
valley provides.

"Our next step is to possibly start a poster campaign to take some of the 
glory out of drug use.

"Teens want to belong and fit in, maybe they see drug use as a way to fit 
in. We have to show them that is not how to have fun," said Nicholson.

Look in next week's Echo for some signs to be aware of if you suspect your 
child may be using drugs.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens