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US NATIONAL HEALTH/SAFETY CRISIS FROM DRUGS/ALCOHOL IN U.S. SCHOOLS

As Documented in the following Excerpts from the 2003 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey of Substance Abuse and Related Health and Safety Problems  

Available at:  http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS5302.pdf  

BACKGROUND

Results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2003 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey have disclosed that massive numbers of high school students engage in behaviors that increase their likelihood of death from four causes: motor-vehicle crashes, suicide, homicide and other unintentional injuries.

This horrific condition has prevailed in schools throughout America for the past third of a century and stands as a stark reminder of the failure of government at all levels to provide the protection to American citizens such governments are established to provide.  With national governmental agencies and professional associations now becoming awakened to this prolonged national tragedy through reports of nation-wide academic failure of schools and national reports of drug-related deaths and hopeless addiction of American youths- including overflowing jails and lengthy waiting lists for drug rehabilitation- this national survey should be a wake up call to government officials at all levels of government that this national health/safety crisis from drugs and alcohol in U. S. schools is intolerable and must be eliminated- whatever it takes!      

Following is an excerpted statement by nationally acclaimed former Fairfax County Virginia school superintendent Dr. Daniel A. Domenech acknowledging the terrible impact of drugs and violence in schools and the need for more effective prevention strategies.  This statement was included in his introduction to the official report of his school district’s 2001 Student Alcohol and Other Drug Use Survey:

“The number of students using illegal drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, continues to be a major concern for our community… The findings from the survey clearly indicate that alcohol and other drug use by youth in (our schools)… is an issue that must be acknowledged and addressed… Along with unacceptable rates of alcohol and other drug use, the survey indicates that some of our youth are involved in violent behaviors including bullying, teasing, and harassment.  Fear of consequences for violent behavior is not always a deterrent.  Many of our children have become disengaged from school and family and are becoming involved in conflicts over seemingly insignificant incidents.  Some of our youth are depressed and some have considered suicide.  There is a strong connection between the use and distribution of alcohol and other drugs and destructive behaviors… The adverse effects of youth involved with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, or of youth who suffer from depression, impact every member of our community… We must seek new ways* for our children to find success and… not turn to illegal drug use, delinquent behavior or violence.”

Those perceptive comments could apply as well to the many other school districts in America today whose schoolchildren, families and teachers continue to suffer from unacceptable levels of student drug/alcohol use and the resulting serious threats to their health and safety.

STUDENT SURVEY SUMMARY

The following list of drug and alcohol use, and related health and safety problems among America’s secondary school children are documented in the 2003 CDC U. S. Youth Risk Behavior Survey.  The stated percentages are those reported for previous 30 day use.  The calculated numbers of students are based upon a national secondary school enrolment for grades 9 through 12 of 18,374,000 students (2002 U. S. Census.)

 Category                                                          Reported Percentage       Number of Students

 

Use of Tobacco in Any Form                                           27.5%                           5,052,850

Use of Marijuana                                                               22.4%                           4,115,776

Use of Alcohol in Any Form                                             44.9%                           8,249,926

Binge Drinking (5 or more servings at once)              28.3%                          5,119,842

Used Alcohol at School                                                    5.2%                             995,448

Drove Under the Influence of Alcohol                        12.1%                          2,223,254

Been a Passenger with a Drinking Driver                 30.2%                          5,548,948

Offered, Sold, or Given a Drug at School                     28.7%                          5,273,338

Used Marijuana at School                                               5.8%                          1,065,692

In Physical Fight on School Property                           12.8%                          2,351,872

Threatened or Injured with a Weapon at School      9.2%                           1,690,408

Carried a Weapon on School Property                          6.1%                           1,120,814

Did Not Go to School Because of Safety Concerns    5.4%                              992,196

Felt Prolonged Sadness or Hopeless (Depression)   28.6%                           5,254,964

Seriously Considered Attempting Suicide                   16.9%                           3,105,206

Attempted Suicide                                                                 8.5%                           1,561,790

Suicide Attempt Required Medical Attention                   2.9%                              532,864

 

 Whether these numbers are precisely accurate or not, they represent a reasonable estimate of the actual condition in schools throughout America today.  Their gross magnitude may be seen as a desperate cry out for help by the students who completed the surveys.  If these totals seem to be an exaggerated statement of the nation’s school drug and violence problems, we should consider the anguish of the families of the 22,000 people per year whose overdose deaths mostly began with a shared joint from a schoolmate.  (See a bereaved mothers’ letter to her drug-destroyed daughter as an obituary published 9/2/04 in the San Diego Union-Tribune available at: http://www.legacy.com/Link.asp?Id=LS02575835X )  And we should remember that it took only one druggie kid to shoot up the high school in San Diego a few years ago killing two schoolmates, wounding several others and terrorizing many more.  That and many other school shootings were drug related!

THEREFORE, WE APPEAL TO ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT TO RECOGNIZE THE NEED FOR A PUBLIC HEALTH RESPONSE TO THIS NATIONAL EPIDEMIC OF THE PEDIATRIC ONSET DISEASE OF DRUG DEPENDENCE AND ADDICTION WHICH IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF PROLONGED DRUG-RELATED TERRORISM THROUGHOUT AMERICA TODAY.                     

*Schools using health screening programs utilizing non-punitive Random Student Drug Testing (RSDT) typically achieve much lower rates of drug/alcohol use and related problems than these totals cited above.  Therefore, now that we have official authorization for RSDT under federal law and favorable Supreme Court rulings, the above figures should be persuasive in citizens’ requests to government and school officials to give fair consideration to adopting RSDT as a legal, effective, humanitarian, popular and much-needed additional vital component of the nation’s public health strategy.

This paper produced by National Institute of Citizen Anti-drug Policy (NICAP)

DeForest Rathbone, Chairman, 703-759-2215                              

NICAP 3/4/05 AC