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What goes through the minds of teen drug users?
Members of the Youth Mobilizers, Y program, created a survey to find out.
The survey was conducted in January and February. High school graduates Josh Dolin and Emi Weeks, senior Katarina Juarez and junior Myles Gurule each took a role in the survey. The Mobilizers interviewed 50 high school students who were thought to use drugs or drink alcohol.
“It was surprising how honest people were,” Weeks said.
The survey results showed:
• The most commonly used drugs are tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.
• Most of the students surveyed said they tried drugs but did not regularly use them.
• Drugs are not frequently used at school.
• Students would take drugs during the weekend or at home.
• The majority got their drugs from friends and they paid for the illegal substances.
• Many students did not think drugs are harmful.
• Most felt their parents would be upset if they discovered their child did drugs.
• Individuals began using drugs when they were 13-14 years old.
• They did drugs for the social experience and for stress relief.
Although there was a list of questions, Juarez said a person’s response could lead to another question not already prepared. As a result, the survey was more a friendly conversation than a formal test.
The survey was started, Y Executive Director Linda Daly said, after members of the Mobilizers heard the results of the 2007-2008 Los Alamos Public School’s Pride Survey. The LAPS administration conducts the Pride Survey, which addresses drugs, every other year in all grade levels. The Mobilizers were interested to see if they could get the same results.
“The kids still wondered what is the drug use — is it a big problem, a small problem and how (do you) prevent it,” Daly said. “What (we) wanted to see if their survey aligned to what the Pride Survey was
The Mobilizers concluded both surveys shared similar findings.
In response to what the Mobilizers had uncovered, they went straight to the classroom.
Daly said Juarez and Dolin introduced a program, “Time with a ’Topper,” in which the Mobilizers talked to elementary school students about drugs to Mountain Elementary School Principal Gerry Washburn.
“He thought it would be a wonderful program to try,” she said.
To deter younger students from using illegal substances, the Mobilizers went to a sixth grade class to address their concerns about moving on to middle school. Since the members of the Y program had graduated from Los Alamos Middle School, they could offer their expertise on social behaviors, drug use and bullying.
Juarez added they also helped equip students on how to avoid drugs. They presented reasons the younger students could offer to get out of using drugs – reasons that would avoid any harsh judgments.
The Mobilizers plan to take this program at other elementary schools during the school year.
Throughout the process, many of the Mobilizers said they learned something, too.
“I realized a lot of kids do face struggles and they resort to drugs to make themselves feel better” Juarez said. “I can be a positive influence on my peers and those younger than me (and I can help them) find a coping mechanism.”