Pubdate: Fri, 15 Dec 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Sheryl Ubelacker
Page: A10


Ontario adolescents are drinking, smoking and using cannabis and other
recreational drugs at the lowest rates since the late 1970s, suggests
a biennial survey of Grade 7 to 12 students by the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

But the 2017 survey released Thursday turned up a disturbing finding:
almost one per cent of respondents in Grades 9 to 12 reported having
taken illicit fentanyl in the previous year, raising a red flag given
the opioid's involvement in hundreds of overdose deaths across the

Robert Mann, a senior scientist at CAMH and co-author of the Ontario
Student Drug Use and Health Survey, said declines over time in the
proportion of adolescents using tobacco, alcohol and cannabis are a
positive sign that public health messaging about the harms of such
substances are getting through to young people.

In the last 20 years, the proportion of students who reported
ingesting alcohol dropped to almost 43 per cent from 66 per cent,
while smoking rates fell to seven per cent from 28 per cent, and
cannabis use dropped to 19 per cent from 28 per cent.

Non-medical use of prescription opioids, monitored since 2007,
declined to almost 11 per cent from about 21 per cent among those surveyed.

"One of the things we also see is that the onset of (substance) use is
being delayed until later years. Now the onset tends to occur in later
grades," Mann said.

Such long-term drops in usage point to successful efforts by parents,
educators, public-health officials - and students themselves - to
address substance use and the problems it can create, agreed co-author
Hayley Hamilton, a CAMH scientist.

"Nevertheless, we must remember that substance use among students can
quickly begin to increase, as we have seen in the past, so a long-term
and continued commitment to public-health goals is necessary."

For example, the legalization of recreational marijuana in July could
alter current patterns related to the psychoactive drug.

When students were asked whether they agreed that adults should be
legally able to purchase pot, responses were mixed, with about
one-third giving a thumb's up, a third against the idea and the other
third indicating they weren't sure.

For the first time in the survey's 40-year history, researchers asked
about fentanyl use. Among those in Grades 9 to 12, almost one per cent
said they had ingested the illicit opioid in the previous 12 months -
a figure equivalent to about 5,800 students across the province.

"That's a small proportion, but this is a very hazardous drug and
these people are taking quite an extreme risk in using this drug,"
Mann said.
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