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Report shows seven years of decline in student substance abuse

March 14, 2017

Majority of students report no use, but non-prescribed drug use remains unchanged

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Oct. 21, 2016) – For the seventh straight year, the percentage of surveyed students living in the 40208, 40210 and 40215 ZIP codes (an area served by the PAL Coalition) who reported they used alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana decreased, according to the 2016 Youth Core Measures Report.

The reductions are significant, say G. Sam Sloss, Ph.D, and Sheila Anderson, BSN, MA, JD, who prepared and shared the report at a PAL Coalition meeting Wednesday, Oct. 19. PAL is a Drug Free Communities Grant provided through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), of the federal Health and Human Services Department.

According to the 2016 report, students who reported using alcohol within 30 days of the survey had dropped from 14 percent in 2010 to 5 percent in the most recent measure. Cigarette use fell from 13 percent in 2010 to 3 percent; marijuana use dropped from 14 percent in 2010 to 6 percent, and students reporting using non-prescribed drugs remained consistent at 3 percent. In all, 3,180 middle and high school students completed the 2016 Jefferson County Public Schools Safe & Drug Free Schools Survey.

“These results affirm that working with young people and involving them in their own outcomes makes a real difference,” said Tomy Molloy, director of PAL, a program of Family & Children’s Place. “By giving them information about the dangers of substance abuse, helping them make better decisions, and providing alternatives to the street, where they face the greatest risk of getting into drugs or trouble, they become partners in their own progress. And it’s paying off in real, meaningful ways,” she said.

The downward trend holds true for both males and females for alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana, though a few more males reported using cigarettes and marijuana during the 30-day survey period. Use of non-prescribed drugs was the same – 3 percent – for male and female respondents.

Other core findings included:

  • White and Latino students reported significantly higher 30-day use for alcohol and cigarettes and African American and other students.
  • Students who used one substance were more likely to use the other substances. For example, high school-aged students who smoked cigarettes during the survey period were 12 times more likely to have also used each of the other substances during the same period.
  • Student use increases in the higher grades. There is a notable increase in alcohol and marijuana use after the freshman year. Tobacco use spikes in the senior year.

“The best news out is that the majority of students – 90 percent – reported no use of any of the substances during the 30 days leading up to the survey,” said Molloy. “It’s worth noting, too, that parents continue to influence behaviors. Most students said that their parents’ disapproval had an impact on their decisions to use or not, so they are listening.”

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The PAL Coalition works with communities, private nonprofit agencies and federal, state and local governments to reduce substance abuse by young people living in the 7th Street corridor – Park Hill, Algonquin and Old Louisville – of Central Louisville. It is housed and partnered with Family & Children’s Place.