Keep teens from drugs


POSTED: Friday, March 26, 2010

An increase in Hawaii high school students trying alcohol and some drugs is disturbing and might be a sign of the difficult economic times. While schools should be on the lookout for risky behavior, parents need to be on top alert to detect their children's diversions and recognize the potentially horrendous consequences.

A biennial survey of high school students in the state last year showed 8 percent had used over-the-counter drugs to get high in the previous month, and the same percentage had used ecstasy at least once in their young lifetimes, up from 5 percent in 2007. Nationally, ecstasy use rose from 6 percent to 10 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to a study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and MetLife Foundation.

Amid a television campaign against methamphetamine, the Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior survey found that 4 percent had used meth in their lifetimes, the same as in the 2007 survey. Use of meth by teenagers nationally was down significantly across the country, as a lower percentage of 10th-graders reported that it was easy to obtain.

While use of marijuana in the previous year rose nationally among high school students last year — from 32 percent in 2008 to 38 percent — use by Hawaii high schoolers within the previous 30 days increased from 16 percent in 2007 to 22 percent last year.

Drinking alcohol in Hawaii also increased among high school students in recent years, with 22 percent saying they indulged in binge drinking — five or more drinks in a row — within the previous month, up from 15 percent in 2007. Nationally, those who had drunk alcohol during the previous month rose from 35 percent in 2008 to 39 percent last year.

Keith Yamamoto, chief of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of the state Department of Health, says the economic recession may be contributing to the increased use of abusive substances. While not directly affected by the recession, he said, children share in the family stress and must cope similarly, he told the Star-Bulletin's Susan Essoyan.

The national survey “;should put all parents on notice that they have to pay closer attention to their kids' behavior — especially their social interactions — and they must take action just as soon as they think their child may be using drugs or drinking,”; said Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

The strain on Hawaii's families caused by the economic abyss makes them susceptible to substance abuse. Families must recognize that possibility in discouraging their children to avoid that dangerous path.