Teen Drug Use

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A new report shows that drug and alcohol use among Arizona’s eighth, tenth and twelfth graders is down over the past two years. The study by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission also shows that more teens are getting marijuana from those with a medical marijuana card. Andy LeFevre of the commission will discuss the report.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon, a new study looks at drug use among Arizona's youth, state trust land funds that pay for education hit a new milestone, and some tips for those looking to rent their homes to Super Bowl visitors. Those stories next on Arizona Horizon.

Video: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. The Arizona criminal Justice commission is out with a new study that looks at drug and alcohol use among Arizona teenagers. Here to talk about that study is Andy Lefevre, he is with the Arizona criminal Justice commission, good to have you here, before we get to the survey, what is the Arizona criminal Justice commission?

Andy LeFevre: Thanks, Ted. The criminal Justice commission was created in 1982 to act in a coordinating fashion for the 480 law enforcement agencies all across Arizona, so we do a wide range of data collection and reporting elements from those agencies up to the legislature and the Governor's office. Also, distribute a lot of Federal criminal Justice dollars back out to the state.

Ted Simons: Ok, with that, now, what is the Arizona youth survey?

Andy LeFevre: Sure. We -- every two years, do a large survey of eighth, tenth, and 12th grade students all across Arizona, this last one that we did in 2014 surveyed over 48,000 students all across the state in all 15 counties. To give really a comprehensive look at the kind of behaviors that they are participating in school, at home, with their friends, so that we get a good look at what's going on in their lives. It gives really good, solid, and deep data for policy-makers to look at to see, you know, this what we're doing working? Should we be concentrating on different areas so that we can try and reduce some of these behaviors? And again, looking at everything from drug and alcohol use, bullying, Cyber bullying, fights at school, driving while impaired, a whole list of activities that they participate in.

Ted Simons: And I know the commission wants to emphasize drug use so we'll stick with that one right now. Before we get to the results, how do you take a study and ask a kid, do you, have you tried marijuana?

Andy LeFevre: It is all self reported data, and it's all anonymous. So, the survey instrument is very much designed so that they cannot be identified on that survey once it is handed in and tabulated. And what we found overdoing this over the last 12 years now is we have gotten it down to a very good point where we get a good example size, again, 48,000 is a large data set to work from, and we feel very confident the data that we're getting from these students is accurate data.

Ted Simons: Ok. So, let's get going here. Number one, alcohol, still number one, right?

Andy LeFevre: It is interesting, alcohol still remains the number one abuse substance in Arizona. We see about 46% of the students have reported some type of use of alcohol throughout their lifetime. It's about 25% of students are saying they are using it on a regular basis so in the last 30 days, the numbers are a little lower, and we have seen them trending down over the last ten years, which is encouraging. I think the coalitions out in our local communities are talking to students about the dangers of alcohol and alcohol use and driving while impaired are starting to show a result. Surprisingly, in this survey, marijuana is now the second most abused substance ahead of tobacco. It had always been up until now.

Ted Simons: Why do you think that is?

Andy LeFevre: Again, I think that there's been a very strong message in our country and in Arizona about the dangers of tobacco. I think the tobacco is not nearly as prestigious or glamorous as it used to be many years ago. So, I think that we're seeing the number of students that are using it going down. Consequently, in looking at marijuana, we're kind of getting the reverse message of that. Medical marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes. It's not as dangerous. It's natural, so I think all of that is leading to what we're seeing with the marijuana now becoming the number two abused substance, and that's at 27% of students reporting using it at some point in their lifetime.

Ted Simons: I was looking at the numbers here, 32% of tenth graders, 48% of 12th graders, and how -- is it -- did you know how they are getting the stuff? Is that asked in the survey?

Andy LeFevre: The survey asks some of the questions where students are getting the substances that they are abusing. It runs right. Friends are the number one place where somebody is getting one of the abused substances, whether it's alcohol or tobacco or prescription drugs or whatever it might be. And it runs the range, and there is a whole list of answers from family, from friends, and you know, interestingly enough, from the marijuana thing, we included a new question in 12 and again this year about medical marijuana cards, and whether students are getting their marijuana from somebody with a medical marijuana card. We have seen that number go up from 11.6% to 14.3% from 2012 to 2014, which is troubling but two years is not a trend, so curious to see what that looks like in 2016.

Ted Simons: As far as areas of the state, any increases and decreases in the certain parts of Arizona?

Andy LeFevre: The numbers have been steady across the counties. Again, we're encouraged by seeing overall substance abuse going down in our teens, we want to see what we can do to encourage more policies that seem to be impacting that and bringing those numbers down. And again, trying to use this data on the local level by school boards, by Mayors and city councils, by the legislature to see, you know, we put some programs in place, and does it seems like it's making an impact and what can we do to encourage that more.

Ted Simons: Alcohol, number one, and obviously, marijuana, as you said, and tobacco at number two, but what about prescription drugs? I hear a lot about that.

Andy LeFevre: Pescription drugs is one of those things that is troubling because, you know, again, the number one place that students are getting prescription drugs are from their homes. If not their homes, perhaps, grandma's home. So, you know, it's troubling to us, and we certainly are working on an initiative to, again, go out and educate kids on the dangers of taking medication that's not theirs. We're hopeful that the numbers will kind of even out and then begin to go down. As we make students more aware of the dangers of those things, and again, not just students, but parents, community members and things like that, by encouraging the use of drop boxes at local police stations so people can get rid of unused medications. So, they are not sitting around longer in their homes than they should be.

Ted Simons: Next month here on eight and the crokite school is kind of leading this. There is going to be a special on heroin use because it does seem to be on the rise. Is it on the rise because -- is there a correlation with prescription drugs, do you think?

Andy LeFevre: Well, I think that one of the things that we have seen anecdotally across the nation is that prescription drugs, the most commonly abused ones are opioids so the same type of high you get from heroin. So as we make prescription drugs harder to get, someone addicted to those prescription medications is going to be looking for that same high in another area, and unfortunately, that is going to be heroin. So, I don't think it's going to be be hard to stretch it out to see that somebody is switching from prescription drugs to heroin, is not something that would be uncommon.

Ted Simons: So, you said now, this has been 12 years for the study, every two years that the study goes on. Trends, what are you seeing?

Andy LeFevre: Again, I think that the thing that's most encouraging is we look at the numbers over the last ten years is that most substance abuse figures are going down. Fewer students are abusing alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, and things like that, that we're not seeing an uptick. We have seen one a few years ago with some prescription medications that seems to be leveling off so we're hopeful that the one that we're concerned with is marijuana, is bucking that end from. Marijuana abuse is growing, and our students across our schools, especially our 12th graders, and that's troubling, and we want to make sure that we keep an eye on that and give the data to folks who can implement the policies.

Ted Simons: What do you want those folks to do as far as implementing the policies? What would you have them focus on?

Andy LeFevre: The purpose of the criminal Justice commission is to give them the data to look at. So we want to focus on making sure that they have good information, they can take that good information and put it up against policies that either have been in place or that they are considering to put in place so that they can look to see if it's going to have an impact. We don't necessarily take a position on what they should or should not be focusing on but make sure that they are making the best decisions that they can.

Ted Simons: So data as opposed to the recommendations.

Andy LeFevre: Correct.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here and thanks for joining us.

Andy LeFevre: Thank you, Ted.

Andy LeFevre:Arizona Criminal Justice Commission;

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