YOUTHS USING DRUGS AT EARLIER AGE, STUDY SAYS
Researchers Call For New Strategies
OTTAWA - By the time they are 14, many Canadian youth have done it all - -- cigarettes, drugs and alcohol -- so a new report on drug abuse and addiction should serve as a "call to action" to change that, the organization behind the research says.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse says Canadians need to pay closer attention to the facts that the average age when a child smokes a cigarette for the first time is about 12, 13 when he or she uses alcohol and gets drunk, and 14 for first-time drug use.
In a report released Wednesday, titled Substance Abuse in Canada: Youth in Focus, the CCSA outlines gaps in Canada's overall approach to dealing with these statistics and it suggests several ways to plug the holes.
The report paints a portrait of drug and alcohol use by youth. By the time they are in their first year of high school, about two-thirds of students have consumed alcohol, according to one survey.
Another survey of youth and adults from age 15 to 24 showed that 83 per cent had consumed alcohol within the past year. The students characterized their drinking as light to infrequent.
More than a third of students in grades 7 to 9 had consumed five or more drinks on a single occasion, researchers said.
The same was true for 40 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds, while another survey showed that one-third of young drinkers drank at a "hazardous" level.
After alcohol, marijuana was the most commonly used illegal substance among youth. Pot use is reported by 17 per cent of students in grades 7 to 9, about 29 per cent of 15- to 17-year-olds, and almost half of 18- to 19-year-olds, the CCSA report said.
Pot smoking, in fact, now exceeds the rate of cigarette smoking among youths, the study found.
The statistics suggest that new approaches are needed to prevent and treat substance abuse by youth, said Michel Perron, the CCSA's chief executive officer.
In general, Perron said in an interview, there needs to be more funding for "services," better co-ordination between all levels of government and non-governmental agencies, and better understanding of which approaches are most effective. Specifically, Perron says, services need to be matched to the age and needs of certain kinds of youths, especially those at higher risk of substance abuse.
A universal prevention strategy that talks to youth about peer pressure, for example, can be effective up to about age 12, but beyond that, a one-size-fits-all approach won't work, he said.
"We know that beyond 12 years old, and because the age of initiation is dropping consistently in Canada, which is a concern to us, we need to start matching our services to the age of youth," he said.
Prevention strategies should target youth as early as possible, said Perron, ideally at around age 10.
Thu, 06 Sep 2007
Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
2007 The Edmonton Journal