Statistics Aside, Teens' Alcohol, Drug Use Is
Post Thursday, May 27, 2004; Page VA08
The results of the 2003 "Fairfax County
Survey of Youth Risks and Assets" were recently
released. The survey of 4,239 eighth-, 10th- and
12th-grade students showed that overall, alcohol
and marijuana use declined slightly when
compared with the results of a similar survey in
2001. These are the major drugs youth use.
To me, the data
indicate that there is reason to be alarmed.
There is a clear trend that as youth age,
alcohol or drug use rises significantly. Youth
are exposed to a wide variety of drugs when they
leave middle school.
10,616 eighth-graders, 11,881 10th-graders and
10,494 seniors in Fairfax Country as of
February. When looking closer at the survey
data, 36 percent of eighth-graders have tried
troubling, 13 percent of eighth-graders use
alcohol regularly. Among 10th-graders, 60
percent have tried alcohol; about 33 percent use
alcohol regularly. For 12th-graders, 72 percent
have tried alcohol; 46 percent use alcohol
Marijuana use is also of concern, as 5
percent of eighth-graders, 24 percent of
10th-graders and 41 percent of 12th-graders have
tried marijuana. In terms of regular use, 3
percent of eighth-graders, 12 percent of
10th-graders and 21 percent of 12th-graders
survey indicates that 14 percent of 12th-graders
have sold drugs at least once. Approximately 11
percent of 10th-graders and 18 percent of
12th-graders have been drunk or high at school.
abuse counselors say that teenagers use other
types of drugs not captured by this survey. The
use of over-the-counter cold and allergy
medication is frequently reported by youth in
counseling programs. These drugs are easily
accessible from household medicine cabinets or
at the local grocery and drug stores. Young
people frequently steal them from stores,
leading some merchants to put these drugs behind
the pharmacy counter.
these medicines, teenagers often do not follow
the recommended doses. They commonly take five
to 10 times the recommended dose to get a better
"high." They also mix them with alcohol or
In addition, the illegal drug ecstasy has
gained popularity over the past several years.
Ecstasy is a combination of speed and mescaline,
a hallucinogen. Oxycontin, a prescription
narcotic painkiller, is also popular among
important to understand that any teenager can
develop a problem with alcohol or drugs quickly,
particularly if there is a family history of
alcohol or drug abuse. To help a child avoid
becoming involved with alcohol or drugs, parents
need to first look at their own attitude toward
alcohol and drug use by asking these questions:
• How much
alcohol, marijuana or other drugs do you use?
• Do you allow
your child to drink at home?
• Do you think
alcohol or drug use is a normal phase of growing
• Do you have
clear rules at home?
• Do you closely monitor your child?
For a parent,
being able to detect whether your child is using
alcohol or drugs is difficult. Any young person
can become involved with alcohol or drugs,
regardless of ethnic, economic or educational
Youth involved in clubs, sports or other
extracurricular activities can become involved
in using alcohol or drugs as any other students.
However, keeping children in these activities
will help prevent alcohol or drug use.
adolescent behavior at times can mimic alcohol-
or drug-using behavior. This causes confusion in
determining whether your child is using alcohol
or drugs. As a general rule, you need to pay
attention to your child's attitude, a change in
friends, a drop in grades or problems in
following rules within the home such as curfew.
You also should be aware of the presence
of cold medication, cough syrup, pipes, bongs or
cigarette rolling papers in your child's room or
car. Beer cans, wine or liquor bottles clearly
indicate alcohol use. Your child may come home
intoxicated, which is of particular concern if
the child has been driving.
Be aware of
your child's social life. Many parties or free
time after school are an occasion to use alcohol
Keep in mind that teenagers using alcohol
or drugs are breaking the law and risk legal
consequences if they are caught.
have any concerns about your child or for
general information, you can speak with a
substance abuse counselor at the county's
Alcohol and Drug Youth Services office,
released survey of Fairfax County teenagers
showed fewer are drinking, using drugs and
smoking compared with two years ago. But Patrick
McConnell, director of youth programs for the
county's Alcohol and Drug Services, found some
disturbing trends in the survey.