By Maggie Lehar
According to a survey of 398 out of 484 MERHS students conducted to analyze the student body’s views and practices regarding alcohol and marijuana use, 50% of students have consumed alcohol and 41% of students have smoked marijuana.
Seventy percent of students do not think that using alcohol or marijuana negatively affects their health or academic success; however, according to the Center for Disease Control, there are a multitude of risks associated with both drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana that can affect many aspects of the lives of students.
Use of Alcohol
The first question asked students whether or not they have drunk alcohol recreationally; the majority (50%) of students responded that they have drunk alcohol at least once. This percentage is consistent with the results of the national 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, which stated that 51% of high school students have drunk alcohol at least once in their life.
There was disparity between the results from students of different grades in regards to their consumption of alcohol. Less than a quarter of freshman students have drunk alcohol (24%), less that half of sophomore students have drunk alcohol (44%), and a majority of both juniors students (71%) and seniors students (71%) have drunk alcohol.
This data is also consistent with the findings of the national 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey that reported that 7 out of every 10 students (70%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school.
Students were also asked about their habits in regards to alcohol. Out of the students surveyed, 20% of students drink alcohol a few times a year, 30% drink alcohol once a month, and 11% of students drink alcohol every weekend. Less than 1% of students surveyed reported drinking alcohol more than once a week, and no students responded that they drink alcohol every day.
The data showed that out of the students who have drunk alcohol, the majority of students (79%) obtain alcohol through their friends. The other ways of obtaining alcohol students reported were from a parent (9%), stealing (8%), or from a sibling (5%).
The survey also contained questions concerning parents’ views of their children’s drinking. The majority of students (69%) answered that their parents are aware of their consumption of alcohol, and out of the parents who know about their students alcohol consumption, 61% disapprove of it and 39% accept it. Less than 1% of students answered that their parents encouraged them to drink alcohol.
Use of Marijuana
Students were also surveyed about their use of marijuana, with 41% of students saying they have smoked marijuana. In the national 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey, only 31% of high school students had smoked marijuana, but the study also explained that this number was increasing each year. The junior class had the largest majority of students who have smoked marijuana, with 56% of students responding that they have. A majority of seniors surveyed (51%) also answered that they have smoked marijuana. Out of sophomore and freshmen students surveyed, 39% and 22% respectively reported having smoked marijuana.
Out of students surveyed, 10% of students smoked marijuana a few times a year, 10% smoke marijuana once a month, 11% smoke marijuana every weekend, 5% smoke marijuana more than once a week, and 2% smoke marijuana every day. This is less than the 4% of high school students that reported smoking marijuana every day in the national 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey.
Most students who have smoked marijuana reported obtaining it from their friends (64%). The next most common source of marijuana for students was dealers, with 35% of students who have smoked marijuana obtaining it in this way. No students reported obtaining marijuana through stealing or parents.
Risks associated with Drinking and Smoking
Seventy percent of students who responded to the survey answered that they do not think that using alcohol or drugs negatively affect their health or academic success; however, according to the Center for Disease Control, there are a multitude of risks associated with drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.
According to the Center for Disease Control, youth who start drinking before age 15 years are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years. Seventy-five out of the 198 students who reported drinking alcohol said that they began drinking at age 14 or younger.
Other risks associated with drinking alcohol include school problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades, social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities, unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity, disruption of normal growth and sexual development, higher risk for suicide and homicide, and changes in brain development that may have life-long effects, according to the CDC.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, smoking marijuana poses many risks to high school students, including legal problems, problems with memory and concentration, decreased motivation or interest, and mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and moodiness.
According to director of guidance Sherri Lewis-Sholler, the negative effects of drug and alcohol abuse in adolescents are apparent in school.
“Your brains are just now developing so [drug use] affects your ability to focus and concentrate. I find the same thing with students who use alcohol excessively; it impacts brain function as well as other body functions and grades drop,” she said.
According to the survey, 6% of students have come to school under the influence of alcohol or marijuana and 13% have come to a school event under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.
Another major risk associated with drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana is alcohol or marijuana related car crashes according to the AACAP. Fifteen percent of students answered that they have driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and 39% of students answered that they have been a passenger in a car while the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Students who think they might have a problem with drug or alcohol use should let their parents or someone at the school know, Lewis-Sholler said.
“[Students should] seek out Ms. Aldrich or a guidance counselor so we can get treatment for them as soon as possible,” she said.
According to the results of the survey, students ideas regarding what percentage of students drink alcohol or smoke marijuana vary greatly. In the survey, students were asked to estimate what percentage of MERHS students drink alcohol: 13% thought less than 25% of students drink, 30% thought 25-50% of students drink, 40% thought 50-75% of students drink, and 18% thought more than 75% of students drink. Students were also asked what percentage of MERHS students they think smoke marijuana. The most common answer was 50-75%, with 47% of students selecting this response. 10% of students estimated less that 25% of students smoke marijuana, 27% estimated 25-50% of students smoke marijuana, and 16% estimated more that 75% of students smoke marijuana.
Of the students who have smoked marijuana or drunk alcohol, the majority of students (77%) said that their main reason for doing so was to have fun.