Survey indicates drug use increasing among students

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LIVERMORE FALLS — A majority of Livermore Falls High School students taking a state survey said they feel safe in school, feel at least one teacher really cares and that they talk to their parents about school.

Nearly half of the 215 respondents have also spent, on average, an hour or more in clubs and organizations outside of school, and do volunteer work.

That was the good news Regional School Unit 36 directors learned Thursday night during a review of the 2009 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey taken last fall.

School representatives said the “not-so-good news” was alarming.

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The results revealed some “pretty scary stuff,” said Chris Beaudoin, a special education social worker.

• Forty percent of the students said they used marijuana.

• Forty-eight percent believe there is no risk or slight risk of harm with occasional use of marijuana.

• Twenty-six percent said they had taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription.

• Sixty-seven percent say they have had more than a few sips of alcohol.

• Nearly 30 percent had five or more drinks in a row in the past 30 days.

• Forty-two percent of those who have used alcohol did so before age 13.

It was the first year of results from a new state integrated survey, said Sue Spalding, Livermore Falls High School director of guidance. School officials have been told not to compare the results with the former Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey. The new survey factors in more than drugs and alcohol, including nutrition and sexual activity.

“We don’t have the state data yet to compare it to,” Spalding said.

Beaudoin said that from his training and the results of the 2006 state survey that indicated 19.6 percent of high school students statewide had used marijuana, the 2009 results of 40.5 percent of local students using marijuana was “alarming.”

Drug and alcohol use is detrimental to the brain, he said, especially to young people whose brains are still developing. The earlier one starts, the more susceptible they are to lifetime use, Beaudoin said.

If abuse starts at 13 or younger, Spalding said, more services may need to be provided at lower grades to educate students and prevent abuse.

Director Denise Rodzen of Livermore Falls said the higher rate may be influenced by not having a substance abuse prevention program in the younger grades.

Drug Abuse Resistance Education has not consistently been offered over the years. Livermore Falls police previously taught DARE education to fifth-graders.

Incoming Superintendent Sue Pratt asked if the high school’s suspension and expulsion rates reflect the data.

Spalding said she believe some students may come to school under the influence of alcohol or drugs but have never been caught.

“I hear kids are using some heavy duty drugs,” she said, including OxyContin.

Grace Eaton, a guidance counselor at the lower grades, said that from what she remembers, the data is consistent with the middle school’s results. She plans to update the board on those results in the future.

“I think the numbers are worrisome,” Chairman Ashley O’Brien said.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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