Not all the news is bad when it comes to youth substance abuse trends

health youth drug use graph 1

health youth drug use graph 2

Teenagers are using less alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, according to a recent Monitoring the Future survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The study of teenagers, released in December, noted that while the use of marijuana has remained steady during the past five years, there has been “significant decreases” in alcohol use. Cigarette smoking is at its lowest rate since the NIDA began conducting the survey in 1991.

And while the country is experiencing an opioid overdose epidemic, the taking of prescription opioids, including narcotics other than heroin, is down.

“For many substances, past-year use has declined to levels” below those seen in the 1990s, according to the study.

The only areas of concern noted were a “high” use of e-cigarettes among teens and that “daily cigarette use was lower than daily marijuana use.”

Montgomery County high schoolers appear to be following the trend. During the 2014-2015 school year, there were 11 serious incidents involving alcohol and 66 involving drugs at the county’s 26 high schools, according to the Montgomery County’s “School Safety and Security at a Glance” annual report.

During the prior school year, there were 16 serious incidents involving alcohol and 101 involving drugs.

In the 2012-13 school year, the report listed 21 alcohol incidents and 116 drug ones. During the 2011-2012 school year, there were 20 incidents involving alcohol and 108 involving drugs.

While specific records were not available from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Roz Landy, dean of students, said that it is a safe and “pretty clean school.” However, she said, “We don’t have our heads in the sand. We know students get involved with alcohol and drugs.”

Head of School Rabbi Mitchel Malkus acknowledged that “once you get to the high school level,” teenagers “take risks and experiment.”

Landy noted, “They’ve got risk in their bones. That’s just the way adolescents are.”

In a study conducted eight years ago, Brandeis University in Massachusetts analyzed the effect of a Jewish day school education. While the study showed little academic difference between students who attend a Jewish day school, public school or private school, it did find that there was a clear difference in the amount of drugs and alcohol consumed.

The study concluded that attendance at a day school “appears to be a ‘protective’ factor.”

At CESDS, “our teachers know these kids. They know when they are off,” said Landy, adding, “We are a 24/7 school” and the kids know it. If a staff member learns that there may be a party with alcohol, parents are called to let them know. “We get involved proactively if we hear of something and retroactively,” even if the event didn’t occur during school or on school property.

Boxes are placed around the school, and students are encouraged to write their concerns, especially if they suspect that a fellow student is involved with drugs or alcohol.

Malkus said the school stresses the teaching of Jewish values and the making of good and ethical decisions. With a student body of about 400 in the high school, staff members are better able to know the whole student and get involved quickly if needed, he said.

“Our faculty are not just the teachers,” said Landy. “The teachers are also used as confidants.”

spollak@midatlanticmedia.com

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