Survey: Youth alcohol use down in St. Johns Co.

Results show marijuana use well above state average

(FreeImages.com/Matthew Bowden)

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Alcohol use is the biggest issue of concern among youth in St. Johns County, though the numbers have decreased, according to the 2012 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.

PACT Prevention Coalition of St. Johns County said it recently received the results of the survey. The other issues of concern are marijuana use, cigarette and prescription pain reliever use.

The survey, which measures the prevalence of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use and delinquent behavior, was completed by 1,339 middle and high school students throughout the county. The survey is administered to a random county-level sample of students in the even years, and a smaller statewide sample in the odd years.

Alcohol is still the most commonly used drug among St. Johns County middle and high school students with 36.9 percent of high school students and 10.4 percent of middle school students reporting they have used alcohol in the last 30 days, according to the survey.

The results show there was a decrease from 2010, when 40.9 percent of high school and 13.7 percent of middle school students reported using alcohol in the last 30 days.

Binge drinking, consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row, is also an area of concern, officials said, as 15.2 percent of high school students reported they have done that in the last 30 days.

When high school students were asked where they received the alcohol they used, 31.9 percent chose "someone gave it to me" and 25.5 percent answered "someone bought it for me." When the same group was asked where they drank within the last 30 days, 54.9 percent responded "another person's home."

Officials said an opportunity for improvement is with last 30-day use of marijuana. They said the high school average of 19.4 percent is more than the state average of 12.4 percent and has increased 1 percent since 2008. Additionally, more high school students reported marijuana use than cigarette use.

The perceived risk of harm for marijuana use also decreased as participants got older. In middle school, 76.1 percent of students perceived marijuana use as harmful, but by high school that had decreased to 38.9 percent.

"We are pleased that reported alcohol use, binge drinking and cigarette use have decreased since the 2010 survey, although we still have much work to do to alleviate these issues entirely," said Ron Sanchez, PACT Prevention Coalition board of directors, president and commissioner. "It is our intent that by making these survey results well known, more community members will volunteer to help with our efforts to keep our young people healthy and drug-free."

The survey also reports on physical and verbal bullying, gang activity, risk and protective factors. For complete results, visit www.pactprevention.org.