Survey: decline in drug use among students
A study has found a drop in drug use among the island's schoolchildren, the Attorney-General has revealed.
Kathy Lynn Simmons told the Senate on Wednesday that a survey of public, private and home-schooled pupils conducted by the Department of National Drug Control last October showed a decline in drug use since 2015.
But the survey found that some middle-qschool pupils had already experimented with alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.
Ms Simmons said: “After reviewing the report, I am happy to announce that overall alcohol and marijuana use as well as experimentation of other drugs has declined since 2015.”
Just over half — 52.8 per cent — of the more than 2,700 pupils who responded to the survey said they had used at least one drug in their lifetime, down from seven in ten students in 2015 and eight in ten in 2011.
The survey collected information on lifetime and present usage of a series of drugs.
Alcohol was the most used drug — 45.2 per cent of pupils said they had tried drinking.
That was followed by cannabis, used by 18.3 per cent of pupils, inhalants, tried by 10.2 per cent and cigarettes, tried by 5.2 per cent.
The survey found 1.8 per cent of pupils had experimented with ecstasy, 1 per cent had tried cocaine, 0.8 per cent of pupils said they had tried heroin and 0.7 per cent admitted trying cocaine freebase, also known as crack.
Ms Simmons said older pupils were more likely to use drugs and alcohol.
She said: “Current alcohol use for all respondents ranges from a low of 2.2 per cent among M2 students to a high of 27.9 per cent among S2 and S4 students; for marijuana, from a low of 0.7 per cent among M2 students to a high of 17.5 per cent among S3 students; and for cigarettes, from a low of 0.5 per cent among M2 students to a high of 3.9 per cent among S2 and S4 students.
“For those students greater than 10 years of age, marijuana was reported as the easiest drug to obtain and that they mostly get it from their friends.”
She added that the average “first use” of the drugs had remained unchanged since the last survey on the subject was carried out in 2015.
Ms Simmons said: “The average age of first use remained similar to four years ago, ranging from 9 years for inhalants to 14 years for cannabis resin, cocaine, ecstasy and hashish.
“On average, alcohol use began around 12 years, cigarette use at 13 years and marijuana use began at around 14 years.”
The surveyed students were more likely to believe that regular tobacco and alcohol use was harmful to their health than think that regular cannabis use was harmful.
Almost 95 per cent of pupils said frequent tobacco use was harmful, compared with 92.2 per cent who said the same about alcohol and 83.3 per cent for cannabis.
A total of 29.7 per cent of pupils said they have never had a serious conversation with their parents or guardians about the dangers of drugs.
The study also examined the use of e-cigarettes — vaping — among students for the first time.
Ms Simmons said: “Overall, slightly over one in five — 22 per cent — of the survey respondents have reported vaping in their lifetime.”
The majority of those who admitted vaping said they had used “only flavouring”. Just 2.5 per cent said they had vaped cannabis and 2.2 per cent said they had vaped tobacco.
Ms Simmons added that tobacco use among schoolchildren had fallen, many were exposed to second-hand smoke.
She said: “Just under one in seven students reported that someone smoked tobacco products in their home at least once a day in the past week and one in every 13 students said the same about someone smoking in a vehicle.”
Ms Simmons added the survey also highlighted the risk of young people being in danger of alcohol-related traffic collisions as passengers.
The report said: “Many students did not know whether or not they had ever ridden in a vehicle that was driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol.
“However, 8.7 per cent of students said that they were on a bike ridden by such a person and 27.9 per cent said the same about being in a car.”
Ms Simmons added: “This report is one of the first steps in making us more aware of the current patterns of drug consumption among youth and involvement of young people in antisocial behaviours.
“Bermuda's youth must receive clear and concise messages that no use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs is acceptable.”
She added: “Protecting our youth and equipping them with the skills, tools and community resources in a time of public health crisis is paramount.
“As a country, we must continue to push forward to diminish the long-term negative outcomes that early substance use among youth may have on the future of our Island.
“This requires a total community effort.”