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Student substance use, abuse down for sixth year in PAL neighborhoods

October 28, 2015

2015 numbers lowest ever, with prescription drug abuse relatively unchanged

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Oct. 28, 2015) – In the six years the 7th Street PAL Coalition has been working with students, schools and families in the Park Hill, Algonquin and Old Louisville neighborhoods, the percentage of students reporting they use alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana continue to decrease, according to a 2015 Youth Core Measures Report.

Summary of Core MeasuresIn fact, 30-day use reported by PAL students in 2015 is at the lowest rate ever during the study for alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana, 7 percent, 5 percent and 8 percent respectively. Rates for use of non-prescribed pharmaceuticals, which have been measured only three of the six years, are relatively unchanged.

“The results prove that collaborating, connecting with students, school and families works,” said Tomy Molloy, director of PAL, a program of Family & Children’s Place. “These results prove that when you provide young people with alternatives – safe and fun after-school options, academic and social support and empower them, they themselves make the right choices.”

Data for the report came from Jefferson County Public Schools’ Safe & Drug Free Schools Survey, which over the six years annually queried between 2,143 and 2,527 students who reside in the PAL working area – ZIP codes 40208, 40210 and 40215. Of students surveyed, 49-54 percent was female, and 56-58 percent was African-American.

Sam Sloss, PhD., professor emeritus of sociology, Indiana University Southeast, and Sheila A. Andersen, BSN, MA, JD shared the results recently. The 7th Street PAL Coalition 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, and engages young people in substance abuse prevention and works to bridge gaps between community, school and home life.

The survey specifically measured:

  • Past 30-day use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and prescription drugs
  • Perception of personal risk of using the products
  • Perception of parental disapproval for using the products
  • Perception of peer disapproval for using the products

Data showed that students use each of the substances at higher rates as they move from lower to higher grades, and that white students use all four drugs at higher rates than non-whites. Differences were statistically significant for alcohol (8.6 percent white, 5.7 percent black, 7.2 percent Latino) and cigarettes (8.1-percent. white vs. 3.3 percent black vs. 4.5 percent Latino).

Results also showed that students who used one drug during the previous 30 days were 10 times more likely to use another drug than those who did not use a first drug.

Other core findings included:

  • In 2015, male and female 30-day use rates of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and prescription drugs are very similar.
  • A majority of students perceives use of each substance as a personal risk, but concern about that risk is lowering over time.
  • Females perceive a higher personal risk than males for using each of the substances.
  • The majority of students, male and female, perceive their parents as disapproving their use of the substances compared to their friends. More than 90 percent view parents as disapproving (with an increasing number each year) vs. 73.5 percent who see their friends as disapproving.
  • In 2015, male and female perception of parental disapproval is similar for each substance.

Specific results show that overall, the percentage of students who used alcohol in the 30 days prior to the study have slipped from 14 percent to 7 percent since 2010. The percentage of students who used cigarettes during the prior 30 days dropped from 13 percent to 5 percent, and the percentage of students who used marijuana during the 30-day period reduced 6 percent, from 14 percent to 8 percent. Prescription drug us; however, hovered between two percent or three percent, according to the report.

“The best news out of all of this is that the majority of students – 87 percent in middle school and 91 percent in high school – reported no use of any of the substances during the 30 days leading up to the survey,” said Molloy. “It’s good, too, to see that most of the 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.