There is a stark increase in drinking and marijuana use from eighth grade to ninth grade in the Saratoga Springs City School District, a study by the Prevention Council finds.
About 25 percent of ninth-graders reported that they drank and almost 15 percent said they used marijuana, roughly triple the rate eighth-graders reported. Almost 15 percent of ninth-graders also said they engaged in binge drinking, about four times what was reported in eighth grade.
The results of the study, which was administered this past fall to sixth- through twelfth-graders, will be released this afternoon.
Prevention Council Executive Director Heather Kisselback focused on what the study had to say about the perception of drug and alcohol use among students. The students as a whole believe there is more alcohol consumption and marijuana use than the study revealed is actually happening. For example, about 65 percent of juniors and seniors believe their peers are using marijuana, but less than 30 percent of students in those grades reported actually doing so.
The perception of alcohol consumption and marijuana use begins to deviate wildly from actual use between eighth and ninth grade.
Kisselback said that this perception that their peers are using marijuana makes students more likely to use it. “When kids perceive that the majority of their peers are using, actual use rates reflect that,” she said in a statement. “Perception is reality with this age group, especially because teens are highly influenced by peer attitudes and behaviors.”
The Prevention Council recommends an advertising campaign that sheds light on the incorrect perceptions high school students have about alcohol consumption and marijuana use as a way to address these concerns.
The study notes that there hasn’t been much of a decline in the number of students either drunk or stoned at school, with more than a quarter of seniors reporting they fell into one of those categories. Good news in the study was the continued decline of illegal drug sales, although the percentages remained above the national average among seniors.
Also being released today are the details of responses 387 parents gave on a different survey from January to February. Only one of the parents responded that their child’s substance abuse was a problem and 86 percent of the parents polled said their children had never used alcohol. These responses run contrary to the 32.1 percent of seniors who reported not only drinking, but drinking in binges, which the study defines as five or more drinks in a row.