Pubdate: Mon, 19 Sep 2005
Source: Press Journal  (Vero Beach, FL)
Copyright: 2005, The E.W. Scripps Co.
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


There is good news and bad news about substance abuse in local 
schools, according to the Florida Department of Children and 
Families' 2004 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.

The good news is that substance abuse is down slightly, while the bad 
news is it is still too high.  The drop in usage is due to community- 
wide efforts, according to Robyn Vanover, safe and drug-free schools 
coordinator for Martin County, but the high level shows not everyone 
is committed to ending the problem.

Vanover made her comments after an editorial and an article appeared 
citing 2002 figures supplied by the Children Services Council. Those 
statistics showed Martin County with the second highest substance 
abuse rate in the state. The new figures show Martin still tied for 
second with four other counties, but with figures that are lower than 
the earlier survey.

The numbers show similar slight reductions for St. Lucie and Indian 
River counties.

Alcohol is the substance most abused by school-age youth. Martin 
County youth rank sixth in the state for alcohol abuse, with 37 
percent of youth saying they abuse alcohol. Indian River and St. 
Lucie counties came in at 35.5 percent and 32.1 percent, respectively.

On marijuana, Martin tied for second place with three other counties, 
with 14.7 percent of students admitting to using the drug, compared 
with 12.6 percent in Indian River County and 13.4 percent in St. Lucie County.

Demographics are to blame for the high Martin County figures, 
according to Vanover. "We have a high 'at-risk' student population," 
she said. "At risk" in this context means students who are mostly 
white, middle-to upper-income, with the means to experiment with 
drugs and alcohol.

Vanover said that despite school-based efforts, "We have a population 
of parents with a positive attitude toward drugs and alcohol. They 
allow their use in their homes and that sends a bad message. We need 
to convince them to delay alcohol use as long as possible. There is 
now sound scientific evidence that alcohol use by teenagers impairs 
their brain development as it relates to judgment, reasoning and 
decision making."

Vanover said schools are working to create a safe learning 
environment for students to help create a protective envelope around 
them to reduce drug usage. "Our teachers have instructional tools 
they can integrate into their programs to deliver an anti-substance 
abuse message," she said.

That's fine, and such initiatives should be on the agenda in Indian 
River and St. Lucie counties, as well. But let's also acknowledge 
that no program devised or imposed by government can supplant the 
role of families. Loving parents are those who muster the maturity 
and accept the responsibility to teach their children to just say no.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake