Student Drug Survey Shows Latest Trends

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Alcohol, tobacco, ganja, inhalants and unexpectedly, donkey weed (indigenous plant) are the substances most used by Cayman’s teenagers and adolescents. These are some of the findings of the Cayman Islands Students Drug Use Survey (CISDUS) 2010.

The survey was conducted in 2010 and has been conducted since 1998 to determine the nature and extent of drug use among middle and high school students in the Cayman Islands. This year the National Drug Council consulted with several stake holders from both government and non government orgnaisations that work with teens and adolescences to include questions relevant to the programmes and services they offer. “The collaboration of these agencies will further assist organisations in their planning and allocation of resources”, says Joan West-Dacers, Executive Director of the National Drug Council.

The survey was administered by trained volunteers to ensure the methodology was consistent throughout the administration. The participation rate of students was 88% of the enrolled middle and high school population. Participation in the survey was anonymous and voluntary and there were no refusals of participation, absences of students account for the participation rate.

The survey report shows that 54% of survey participants had not used any substance in the year prior to the survey. Alcohol use in the past year was reported by 39% of all students, tobacco use by 14%, ganja use by 12% and use of donkey weed by 3%.

Almost two-thirds of all students had used alcohol at some point in their lifetime. More than six out of every ten students said that alcohol was “easy” or “very easy” to obtain. About 19% of drinkers said that the usually get it from friends followed by 8% who said they get it from parents and other relatives. Rates of drinking increased by grade, with 10% of 7th graders reporting alcohol use compared to 65% of 12th graders.

Early onset of drinking was shown to have decreased slightly. About 37% of drinkers reported they had their first drink between the ages of 6 and 11. Alcohol was seen as readily available by 61% of students. Availability increases with age with 27% of 7th graders having easy access to alcohol as compared to 85% of 12th graders.

By district, East End showed the highest rate of alcohol use among survey participants. Students from Cayman Brac reported a significant increase when compared to earlier years.

With regard to tobacco, 14% of students reported smoking cigarettes in the past year prior to the survey, while 7% were current smokers. Of current smokers, rates differed by grade, with 2% of 7th graders smoking compared to 13% of 12th graders.

More than three out of every ten students said that cigarettes were “easy” or “very easy” to obtain. Smoking increased by grade, with 3% of 7th graders reporting past year smoking compared to 24% of 12th graders. About 32% of smokers reported they smoked their first “whole” cigarette between the ages of 6 and 11. By district, Cayman Brac showed the highest rate of smoking cigarettes among survey participants.

About one out of every ten (13%) students reported using ganja at least once in the year prior to the survey, with 7% reporting use in the past month. Males were more likely to use ganja than females, as did older students as compared to younger students. While 1% of 7th graders reported using the drug, 23% of 12th graders reported usage. By district, East End showed the highest rate of ganja usage among survey participants.

More than three out of every ten students said that ganja was “easy” or “very easy” to obtain.

New users, about 7% of smokers reported they smoked ganja for the first time during the past 12 months. About 17% of smokers reported they first used ganja between the ages of 6 and 11.

In the area of other illicit drug use, 8% of students reported inhalant use in their lifetime, while 4% reported use in the past year. Followed by 6% of students reported smoking donkey weed (indigenous plant) in their lifetime, while 4% reported use in the past year.

Since the analysis of the data for CISDUS 2010, the NDC has been working with stakeholders to develop ways of addressing the impact of substances on our youth. We are currently in dialogue with the Ministry of Education in regards to the development of programmes within the National Curriculum for grades K-12 that will provide ongoing and consistent programming for students. We are also working with Education in the development of a School Based Drug Policy. As a result of the survey we have conducted over 150 presentations to students, parents and teachers in both public and private schools to provide education and awareness on the presenting issues.

We are grateful to the stakeholders who are utilizing the data to look at ways to develop programmes and policies that will support our youth. The NDC continues to work with each organization based on their mandate in bringing awareness to the issue and looking at strategic ways to address the problems.

The report of the Cayman Islands Student Drug Use Survey will be used by the National Drug Council and its stakeholders to develop drug prevention and education programmes, as policies. Copies of the report can be obtained from the National Drug Council, #17 & 18 Caymanian Village, George Town, Tel. 949-9000 or email info@ndc.ky .

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