Drugs by the Numbers: Arizona Youth Survey 2014 for Navajo County
By Debe Campbell, Executive Director, Navajo County Drug Project
The Arizona Youth Survey is conducted biannually in each county by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission epidemiologists. It is in opt-in survey administered by school districts to 8 th, 10 th 12 th graders. Youth are surveyed about their lifetime and last 30-day use of 16 different drugs. It also addresses drug sources, school safety, youth gambling, bullying, risk and protective factors. This survey provides the best statewide, county and local data available and is crucial to local prevention planning.
In May 2014, 48,244 students were surveyed statewide. This included 23,460 males and 24,353 females. Among them were 1,125 students in eight Navajo County Schools.
Navajo County youth survey responses revealed some alarming and surprising results. Alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana remain the perennial top three drugs of abuse, now closely followed by prescription drugs. Age 12.5 is gateway age for drug experimentation. Fortunately, 8 th grade use declined across the board this year, except for prescription and pain meds, which remain well above the state average.
Meth on the Rise
There was a significant rise in methamphetamine use among 12 th graders (lifetime use rates doubled from 0.7% in 2012 to 1.4% in 2014; highest rate of use was 16.5% in 2006). Even more surprising was expanded use of meth among 10 th graders. These rates typically fall below that of 12 th graders; however, in 2012, 10 th graders reported 0.3% using methamphetamines and 3.4% in 2014 (1% of those within the last 30 days).
Not only that, 10th graders' inhalant use went up from 6.2% to 8.6 % in the same period. And, 2.7% of those youth had used once or more in the last 30 days. Inhalants are usually an entry-level high for younger kids.
Prescription drug use surprisingly declined between 2012 and 2014 for 10 th and 12 th graders (10 th from 16.6% to 14.9% and 12 th 24% to 14.3%). Use of prescription stimulants rose among 10 thgraders over the same period by1%. Prescription pain medication abuse was cut by more than half, from 23.1% of seniors using in 2012 to 12.1% in 2014. Conversely, 8 th grader prescription drug use went up a full 1%, at 12.5%, a full 3.2% higher than the state average for their age group. While their use of prescription stimulants dropped 2%, use of prescription pain medications rose slightly by 0.3%.
Despite national campaigns about prescription medicine abuse, adults remain widely uninformed that about one in four youth abusing prescription drugs get them from the medicine cabinet at home. Abuse of opioid-based pain medications (popularly oxycodone, hydrocodone) can be a gateway to heroin abuse. When the pain pills run out or become to expensive to buy on the street at $40 an 80mg pill, the next best substitute is heroin, which can go for as little as $2 a single dose on the street. And, only about a quarter of sophomores and seniors in Navajo County think prescription medications are more harmful than street drugs. In fact they are just as harmful or more harmful when mixed with alcohol, and 4.1% of seniors report doing just that in the past 30 days.
Tenth grade heroin abuse declined in 2012 to 1.6% from 3.2% in 2010. It climbed back to 2.7% in 2014.
Steroid Use Pumps Up
Steroid abuse jumped from 1.3% to 3.2% among 10th graders this year. The state average is 1.9%. Body image and enhancing athletic performance are the most common reasons for steroid use. This needs to be addressed by coaches, athletic directors and school administrators. It should be noted that use among seniors dropped from 3% to 1.9%.
Marijuana Going Up in Smoke
Marijuana use remains third behind alcohol and cigarettes. As if 36.6% use among 12 th graders isn’t bad enough, wait until 2016, when recreational marijuana use will appear on the Arizona ballot.
Medical marijuana use was approved in Arizona in2010. The roll out of medical marijuana dispensaries has been slow, but an estimated 1 in 225 people has as a state card to legally posses or grow medical marijuana, according to CBS 5 News’ Nicole Crites. But youth already are being affected. In 2012 16.3% of 10 th grade marijuana users got their pot from someone with a medical marijuana card. In 2014, that climbed to 23.5%.
Likewise, the perception of risk of marijuana use is already declining. In 2014, 60.1% of sophomores nationally perceived moderate or great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice weekly, yet 15% of them did it anyway!
Half of local seniors and 21.8% of 8 th graders have used alcohol in their lifetime. This year, 16.9% of seniors reported having ridden in a car, within the last 30 days, driven by someone drinking alcohol; 5.6% were themselves driving high on prescription drugs.
More than half of all Navajo County youth surveyed say, in the past year they have not discussed with their parents strategies to avoid or resist people or places where they might be offered alcohol or drugs. Data from DrugFreeKids.org shows that one single conversation with parents about drugs and strategies for avoidance can reduce a child’s risk of abusing drugs by 50%. Yet, only about 15% of local parents talked about it at least once last year to their kids; 65.7% of seniors’ parents didn’t, and those young adults now have left school. The next conversation they have about drugs may be from a supplier.
Take the time to discuss the dangers of drug use for youth during their developmental years. The longer the first use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs can be extended to a later age, the less chance that that person will become addicted or suffer other brain development issues related to substance abuse.
All data expressed in this article is related to Navajo County, unless otherwise stated.
A wealth of tools and information can be accessed on our website, www.navajocountydrugproject.com. The complete 2014 Arizona Youth Survey report for Navajo County can be accessed there under Information & Tools/Education Tools. Our accredited prevention professionals are available, on request, to deliver a program about these statistics, other aspects of substance abuse or answer questions. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org