Use amongst middle and high school students still a concern
Alcohol and drug use among local school students is down, according to a report released by the Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Program (GCSAPP). Officials are encouraging more adult involvement in the lives of young people to continue the downward momentum.
On Tuesday, June 17, representatives from GCSAPP gave a presentation before the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council on the recent decrease in drug and alcohol use. The GCSAPP report was based on the results of the 2006 and 2007 Healthy Kids Colorado statewide surveys. Locally, the survey accounted for 720 students grades six through 12 at all Gunnison Watershed RE1J schools, according to GCSAPP member Leon Oltmann.
GCSAPP member and Gunnison District Court Chief Judge J. Steven Patrick said, “The numbers by and large over the past year seem to be going down,” referring to declining trends among school students who admit to using alcohol and drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, inhalants and methamphetamine.
Oltmann attributed the decline to recent efforts by parents and schoolteachers, as well as those of the GCSAPP in preventive education. According to the report, among students in grades six through 12, 50 percent admit to trying alcohol in 2007, a 5 percent decrease from the previous year.
The report notes that alcohol use increased by each successive grade level, with only 13 percent of students in sixth grade trying alcohol, and 88 percent of high school seniors trying alcohol, the only grade level that was above both the state and national averages in alcohol use for 2005. Drugs such as tobacco and marijuana also saw a decrease in student use, but methamphetamine use was reported slightly up.
Students who admit to binge drinking (five or more drinks at a time) decreased 5 percent between 2006 and 2007, and binge drinking among local students is lower than the national average, Patrick said. At the time of the surveys, 64 percent of 12th-grade students admitted to using alcohol in the past 30 days, above the national average of 50.8 percent, according to the results.
GCSAPP is a countywide coalition that works to change attitudes and behavior related to substance abuse. GCSAPP works to increase awareness of underage drinking, decrease underage access to alcohol, and provide evidence-based prevention education for all controlled substances.
Healthy Kids Colorado is an annual statewide survey of drug and alcohol use among students in all public schools, including the Crested Butte Community School, Gunnison High School, Gunnison Middle School, Gunnison Elementary School and Gunnison Valley School. Healthy Kids Colorado also surveyed the parents of students enrolled in public school systems. Approximately 720 surveys were counted in local schools.
Patrick said there was no difference in survey results between the Crested Butte Community School and schools in Gunnison.
Oltmann said the survey results represent an even mix of males and females.
Patrick said the most interesting piece of data was the small number of parents who believed their kids were using drugs or alcohol, and the large number of students who admit to using drugs or alcohol.
Mt. Crested Butte Town Council member Mike Kube asked if GCSAPP knew how students were getting access to alcohol.
Patrick said grade-school students usually obtain alcohol through older siblings or friends of older siblings. He said students from Western State College are providing some alcohol to minors, and the college was working on its own substance-abuse prevention programs. Oltmann said students in grades six through eight primarily get alcohol through their parents.
Mt. Crested Butte attorney Rod Landwehr said there needed to be more efforts to discourage or prevent people from providing alcohol to minors.
Oltmann said the recent decreases in substance abuse could be attributed to the efforts of parents and teachers in educating school kids about drug and alcohol use. “This is a serious effort on part of the schools with really touching base with students and where they’re at,” Oltmann said.
He said there was more work to be done in preventive education if the decline in drug and alcohol use could be expected to continue. That work might include getting parents more involved in organizing parties and watching out for their children, as well as public officials carefully monitoring how alcohol is displayed and distributed at special events, Oltmann said.
Kube asked if the surveys accurately represented 100 percent of local students.
Oltmann said there was some room for statistical error in the data. He said the surveys were voluntary and different students may respond to each year’s survey.
Council member Gary Keiser asked if surveys would be conducted again.
Patrick said the Healthy Kids Colorado survey would likely be done again in the fall, as overseen by the Colorado Department of Education.
More information about GCSAPP’s preventive efforts can be found at www.gcsapp.net.