Fewer Kids Drink, Smoke; More Use Marijuana; New DCF Survey Finds Significant Shift in Attitudes and Behavior

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Howard Perry

A new survey of substance abuse among teenagers in Duval County shows consistent drops in recent cigarette and alcohol use, but no real movement when it comes to marijuana and prescription drugs.

The survey, conducted every two years by the Florida Department of Children and Families, asks middle and high school students about their drug, alcohol and cigarette use, and their attitudes about it. Students are asked if they've ever used the drugs, and if they've used in the last 30 days.

The 30-day measure shows that students of all ages who report using alcohol in the past month has dropped from almost 30 percent to about 22 percent since 2004. Recent cigarette use also dropped to just 5 percent of youth surveyed.

But marijuana use has ticked back up since a low in 2008, with almost 12 percent of students reporting recent use.

"Overall, we're really encouraged by the reduction in alcohol and tobacco trends," said Susan Pitman, executive director of Safe and Healthy Duval Coalition. "It shows the culture around alcohol and cigarettes changing."

But Pitman thinks the real battle still lies ahead, as legislation around the nation has decriminalized or legalized marijuana. Now that the drug is falling into the same category as alcohol and cigarettes - substances that have social acceptance and legality - her agency has to crystallize its message. …


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