Health and Community Services
November 21, 2007

Atlantic Provinces Release Student Drug Use Survey

As a joint initiative, the four Atlantic provinces have unveiled the 2007 Student Drug Use Survey. The survey reports students’ experience with substance use, gambling and associated risk behaviours.

"This survey gives us tremendous insight not only into the behaviour of adolescents when it comes to substance use but also its impacts on their lives," said the Honourable Ross Wiseman, Minister of Health and Community Services. "This survey will act as an additional tool in helping our government and our regional health authorities ensure that provincial programs and services continue to be effective for prevention and treatment."

Conducted in the spring of 2007, approximately 17,500 students were randomly selected for the survey from grades 7, 9, 10 and 12 in all four provinces, with 3,848 students participating in Newfoundland and Labrador. Participation was anonymous and confidential. The survey was comprised of a questionnaire with 100 items and one open-ended question. Information was sought and collected on demographics, substance use, risk behaviours and problems, help seeking, gambling, school drug education and rules, as well as mental health.

Findings from Newfoundland and Labrador indicate that 40 per cent of students had not used any substances listed in the survey in the 12 months prior to completing the survey, which is relatively on par with the Atlantic average of 43 per cent. Alcohol, cannabis and tobacco remain the three most commonly-used substances by Newfoundland and Labrador students. However, there was a decrease in the use of all three substances, with the largest decrease being with tobacco use, which fell from 27.3 per cent in 2003 to 16.9 per cent in 2007.

"The trend we are seeing with a decrease in tobacco use tells us that the interventions and education around tobacco use have made a substantial difference in the smoking rate for youth," said Minister Wiseman. "This is important information as we consider other preventative measures targeting substance abuse."

Indicators also looked at usage of other drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and Ritalin. Consistent with the findings from Nova Scotia, there was an increase in the prevalence of ecstasy use from 2 per cent to 7.2 per cent. A small percentage of students (5.1 per cent) reported taking Ritalin without a prescription within the last 12 months. As well, a small percentage (5.3 per cent) reported using cocaine within the last 12 months.

The survey also contains additional indicators related to substance use. In Newfoundland and Labrador, 16.3 per cent of students with a licence reported driving within an hour of consuming alcohol; 29.5 per cent reported driving within an hour of using cannabis; 16.9 per cent reported being a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone under the influence of alcohol; 22.2 percent reported being a passenger in a vehicle driven by a person who had used cannabis; and, 35.3 per cent reported engaging in unplanned sexual activity when under the influence, on at least one occasion in the last year.

Gambling was also surveyed this year and findings indicated that approximately 62 per cent of students in the province gambled with the most common form being scratch tickets. As well, 3.6 per cent engaged in at-risk gambling while 1.7 per cent engaged in problem gambling. The Atlantic rate for gambling behaviours was 58.5 per cent with 2.7 per cent engaging in at-risk gambling and 1.4 per cent engaging in problem gambling.

Problem gambling refers to participation in any form of gambling to the extent that it creates negative consequences to the gambler, his or her family, place of employment/school, or community. At-risk refers to gambling behaviour which does not meet the diagnostic criteria for problem gambling, but which does, nonetheless, appear to be somewhat problematic.

"Our government has and will continue to engage in measures to help prevent youth from engaging in problematic substance use and gambling," said Minister Wiseman. "One prime example is our Get Up On It campaign running right now during Addictions Awareness Week. Get Up On It gives youth the real facts on substance use and gambling. This year our campaign has a special focus on parents, highlighting the valuable and critical role that they play in influencing their children’s choices."

Over the past four years, the Provincial Government has increased funding for mental health and addictions by $11.9 million, resulting in enhanced prevention strategies and treatment programs for addictions.

This is the fourth Atlantic Student Drug Use Survey conducted. The three previous surveys from 1996, 1998 and 2003 will be used to determine prevalence and trends in student drug use. The survey was conducted by Dalhousie University.

The report can be viewed at www.gov.nl.ca/health. Hard copies of the Newfoundland and Labrador Summary Report can be obtained by calling: 729-3658.

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Media contact:
Glenda Power
Director of Communications
Department of Health and Community Services
709-729-1377, 685-1741
glendapower@gov.nl.ca

2007 11 21                                                   10:30 a.m.

 


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