Survey: Middle schoolers experiment with alcohol, drugs

Local group offering lunch and learn to parents to spot warning signs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Fewer teenagers in Northeast Florida are binge drinking and smoking, but they are still turning to prescription drugs to get high, a new survey finds.

Another finding: Middle school-aged children are experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

According to the 2014 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, fewer high school and middle aged kids in Nassau, St. Johns and Duval counties are drinking to the point that they black out and fewer are smoking cigarettes, but parents still need to talk with their teenager and they need to have that conversation earlier than they may realize.

Kerrie Albert, with the Nassau Alcohol, Crime and Drug Abatement Coalition, says the survey suggests education programs are working to reduce the number of teens who are drinking and taking drugs, but as many as 50 percent of the teens surveyed admitted to drinking, 28 percent percent say they have smoked cigarettes and 8 percent  have taken prescription pain relievers.

Albert says children as young as 12 are starting to drink and take drugs.

"They want to fit in and start experimenting," Albert said. "It's important you have that conversation now, when they're in middle school," she added. "Scare tactics work at first, but the better way to talk to them is explaining what drugs and alcohol do to their health."

Albert suggests having a conversation with your child about their day and segue into questions about what other kids are talking about in school, including whether they have offered drugs or alcohol to your child.

According to the 2014 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, Nassau county teenagers admitted to taking more prescription pain pills, depressants and smoking marijuana.  All three categories saw a slight increase compared to last year.  On the contrary, binge drinking, alcohol and synthetic drug use is down in the county.

Albert reminds parents to lock up their prescription pills since teenagers often take pills from their parents.  

Nassau county police and drug prevention officials are offering parents and teenagers an opportunity to learn more during a lunch and learn scheduled for Tuesday at the Fernandina Beach Police Department.  It will be held in the Community Room from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  You are asked to RSVP, since lunch will be served: 904-994-2502.

To check the teen survey results in your county, click here

About the Author: