Volume 93, Issue 44

Wednesday, November 17, 1999


Oil spill threatened Thames

De-ratification may surprise USC clubs

TAs and admin reach agreement

Quality of college education falls

Drugs and alcohol use on the rise

UN payment conditional


Caught on campus

Drugs and alcohol use on the rise

By Leena Kamat
Gazette Staff

The 1970s are back – or at least the level of adolescent drug use during that period.

Earlier this week, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health released the results of a survey which found teenage alcohol, tobacco and drug use have increased since 1993, said Angela Paglia, a research associate at the centre and co-author of the study.

Although drug use among teens was at a high in the '70s, Paglia said the '80s saw a decrease in usage. However, since 1993, drug and alcohol use has been on the rise.

Paglia explained the survey showed 65.7 per cent of teens drank alcohol, compared to 56.5 per cent in 1993. Cannabis usage had increased the most, she said, with 29.2 per cent of teens using it instead of the 12.7 per cent in 1993.

"In our survey, we asked about the attitudes about drugs," Paglia said, adding students do not have a perception of the risk associated with drugs.

Almost 5,000 students across Ontario, from Grades 7 to 13, were involved in the study, she said. "This is a good representative of their behaviour. We can see the trends."

Paglia explained the term "drug use" in the survey referred to the use of drugs at least once in the past year. The study found teens increased their use of eight kinds of drugs out of the 20 drugs listed. There were no significant changes in the use of the other 12 drugs.

The survey, however, showed some positive signs, she said. "We are quite pleased that cigarette usage didn't go up," she added. "We [also] didn't find an increase in hard drugs."

George Glover, executive director of the Teen Challenge Farm, said he has witnessed an increase in substance abuse for the past few years and is not surprised with the survey's results.

Glover attributed the increase to a number of reasons, including a desensitization of the risks of drugs and the feeling of immortality youths seem to have.

"[Teens] play with fire and never really see how dangerous it is until [they] get burned," Glover said, adding parents may also be less concerned with the issue of drug use.

"A lot of it is lifestyle – buying into a lifestyle that is carefree," said John Van Dommelen, a co-ordinator with the London District Catholic School Board. Van Dommelen said the province added a new curriculum which teaches healthly lifestyles, including substance abuse, at all grade levels.

"In the next five to seven years, we should see remarkable differences," Van Dommelen said, adding the whole community has to work together to solve this problem to see such a change.

Paul Whitehead, a professor of sociology at Western, said the survey's findings did not strike him as odd. "It's one of those things that if they go down, I won't be surprised, but it they go up, I also won't be surprised.

"[It's a] wake-up call to adults to say, 'Hey, there's a reason to be concerned,'" Whitehead said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999