FRIDAY, APRIL 20 UPDATE: At least one drug has been used by 76 per cent of all students aged between 10 and 18, a survey carried out by Government suggests.
And more than 16 per cent of youngsters surveyed admitted they were keen to try an illicit drug.
But substance abuse is on the slide overall, according to the statistics.
Unveiling the report in Hamilton yesterday, Justice Minister and Attorney General Kim Wilson said: “I am happy to announce that overall alcohol, tobacco and other drug use has declined over the past four years.”
She added: “Of no surprise, students reported marijuana as the easiest drug to obtain.”
Ms Wilson added that protective factors to help keep children away from drugs and alcohol included school opportunities for personal development, rewards for positive behaviour and family encouragement, all of which recorded the highest levels in the survey.
She said: “Protective factors are characteristics that are known to decrease the likelihood that a student will engage in anti-social behaviour — substance abuse, depression and anxiety, delinquency, teen pregnancy, school dropout or violence.
“It is clear that our parents and schools are having a positive impact by supporting and rewarding positive social involvement.”
Ms Wilson added, however, that the highest level of risk was observed for sensation-seeking, moving home and school often, friends’ use of drugs and a family history of anti-social behaviour.
She said: “While we are aware that young people seek excitement and are impacted by peer pressure and family history, the survey results show that our young people are being negatively impacted by having to change schools and home location.”
The report on the islandwide survey said: “Similar to national trends in other jurisdictions, results from the current school survey indicated that Bermuda’s students continue to experiment at a higher rate with alcohol, marijuana, tobacco (cigarettes) and inhalants.”
But the survey showed that episodes of binge drinking have plummeted by nearly half (47.5 per cent) since a similar survey five years ago — a trend in line with Caribbean countries.
The report added: “An alarmingly high proportion of students who perceived alcohol consumption as not harmful to one’s health were in fact current users of alcohol (70.9 per cent) while 63.1 per cent and 69.8 per cent of students who indicated that smoking marijuana sometimes and frequently (respectively) was not harmful to one’s health were current users of marijuana.”
The report’s authors also said there appeared to be a strong link between alcohol consumption and sexual activity among youngsters – of those who drank, 65.8 per cent said they had had sex.
Ms Wilson said: “Drugs have become a deeply ingrained part of our daily lives and prevention cannot occur unless there is change in our social attitudes towards alcohol and drug use.” And she called on the entire community to unite in an effort to create a drug-free environment for young people.
The authors of the National School Survey also noted a “notable decline” in religious belief and moral order — making it more likely that youngsters will abuse alcohol or drugs.
The report said: “Literature indicates that adolescents who perceive religion as important in their lives may lower their likelihood of cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol drinking, and marijuana use. A decrease in religiosity and belief in moral order among this population may be indicative of students feeling less likely to be motivated to follow society’s standards and more likely to engage in delinquent behaviours.
“This fact is further supported by current crime statistics, which reflect increasing levels of violence within some Bermuda communities, especially that of gun crime.”
The survey was carried out last October, quizzing more than 3,180 pupils at 29 schools, seven Government-run and six private schools, as well as 16 home schools. Middle school and senior school students all took part in filling in a questionnaire about their habits.
The survey showed that many students were aware of the health risks of abusing alcohol and drugs – but continued to use them. The report said: “Knowledge regarding the developmental progressing of substance use during adolescence and early adulthood is important because it can guide the focus and timing of preventative interventions.
“Interventions targeted at the use of substances occurring towards the beginning of this progression have the potential to prevent the use or escalation in use of these substances as well as the potential for reducing or eliminating the use of other substances further along the progression.”
The authors said that a comprehensive drug prevention for all students in middle and elementary schools was “considered a universal intervention because it targets young people in an effort to prevent or at least delay the onset of substance abuse.”
The report also recommended special programmes for the children of drug users and alcoholics because they are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse problems later in life.
And it said prevention courses designed to reduce drug abuse problems among youngsters who have already started to use illegal substances should also be introduced.
Young ‘weed’ users
A fifth of school pupils have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives, the survey reveals.
Among older students, those aged around 18, the figure rose to more than 40 per cent, while only 4.2 per cent of younger students, M2 pupils aged around 11, said they had smoked marijuana.
The figures for current marijuana use was 1.3 per cent for the youngest group and 14.4 per cent for the oldest pupils.
Overall, almost eight per cent of all survey respondents said they had used marijuana in the month leading up to the survey, which was carried out last October.
A report on the findings said: “While it is clear that in many countries in the world, marijuana or cannabis use is not as popular as alcohol and tobacco, it is usually the first illegal drug, and is the most widely-used illegal drug, used by teens around the world.”
The report added that boys were more likely than girls to use marijuana, as well as alcohol and tobacco, but that the gap was closing in many countries.
The authors said: “Further, street youths are more likely to use marijuana and more heavily than mainstream youth.”
The report added that marijuana use was linked to a variety of social problems, including truancy, low self-esteem, stealing and vandalism.
It also makes it more likely that youngsters will have delinquent friends, hang out on the streets and suffer from mental problems.
Few smoke at school
One in ten school pupils have smoked cigarettes, a new survey on drug use among youngsters has found.
A total of 10.7 per cent of the 3,180 students surveyed admitted smoking at some point in their lives.
Older pupils were found to be more likely to be smokers, with 5.5 per cent of 18 year olds saying they had smoked, compared to just 0.3 per cent of M2 students – those aged around 10-11.
Overall, 2.5 per cent of all the survey respondents admitted to having smoked tobacco in the 30 days running up to last October’s questionnaire.
A report on the survey said: “After alcohol, tobacco or cigarettes are the most commonly-used drug among adolescents, but its consumption has been in decline since the late 1970s, even though there are periods where it has remained steady.”
Nearly seven out of ten current users of tobacco said that they had smoked between one and five cigarettes a day in the previous month.
Only two pupils said they smoked between 11 and 20 cigarettes a day, while 11 said they smoked more than 20 a day.
The majority of students who smoked said they did it most often at the homes of friends or at home.
The survey added “very few” of those said they smoked at school.
Around four out of ten young smokers said they got their cigarettes from friends or bought them in shops.
The Red Bull craze
Nearly two-thirds of schoolchildren drink Red Bull-style energy drinks, a survey on drugs and alcohol has revealed.
A total of 65.5 per cent of school pupils have consumed caffeine-laden drinks, with 31.7 per cent of youths using them regularly.
And one in four of pupils surveyed admitted mixing energy drinks with alcohol — a risk factor for heart rhythm problems.
Attorney General and Minister for Justice Kim Wilson said: “According to the US National Institute of Health, high levels of caffeine can boost heart rate and blood pressure, causing palpitations.
“Mixing these drinks with alcohol further increases the risk of heart rhythm problems.”
The findings are part of a major survey of more than 3,180 school pupils carried out by the Department of National Drug Control and the Ministry of Education.
Students at schools across the island were surveyed to check on drug use and attitudes to illegal substances, as well as alcohol and tobacco.
Similar surveys were carried out in 2003 and 2007.
Ms Wilson said: “A new phenomenon among our young people is the use of energy drinks. Energy drink consumption was remarkably high among students.”