Survey finds alcohol use down, pot smoking up at secondary schools

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By Kirsten Laskey

Teenagers have healthier thoughts about alcohol than they did a few years ago, according to a survey conducted by Los Alamos public schools.

Among the most positive results, the survey discovered a significant drop in alcohol use in the majority of the midle and high school grades compared to a survey from three years ago.

Morris Pongratz of Assets in Action, presented the results of a Search Institute Survey of students for 2009.

Pongratz praised the Los Alamos Police Department for being “pro-active” in dealing with underage drinking.

In another survey question related to alcohol, the 2009 survey showed when comparing 2006 statistics to this year’s results, the number of students drinking and driving were also significantly down.

There is, however, work to do.

Pongratz showed that tobacco use and marijuana use have increased since 2006.

Suicide is another major concern. A high number of Los Alamos Middle School female students seem to be struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Other behaviors such as truancy and sexual intercourse remain about the same when comparing this year’s data to 2006’s statistics.

Besides the choices they make on different issues, the survey revealed further insight on how students rate different developmental assets in their schools, families and community.

For instance, an external asset, safety, was considered to be a very high asset amongst teens while another external asset, the community’s value of youth, was deemed to be lowest asset.

Additionally, an internal asset, integrity, was considered to be highest asset for teens while another internal asset, restraint, was rated the lowest asset.

This survey does more than just answer the question – what are teenagers thinking – it educates students, parents, school personnel and law enforcement on problem behaviors. The survey also educates parents about effective prevention techniques and develops a prevention curriculum and other strategies for the school and community.

For instance, Pongratz said to address the presence of suicidal thoughts and depression in the middle school, a curriculum to address these issues is being developed.

Conducting the survey also validates intervention school officials, law enforcement and counselors.

Pongratz pointed out those students who skip classes sends up a warning sign that they might be engaging in risky behavior.

The data received through this survey is not meant to be simply read.

Pongratz encouraged getting help to students and families based on the identified signs of problems and spreading the word about the survey.

“This is not the thing to keep secret,” he said.