Friday, April 09, 1999

Teens learning to skip drugs

7,000 students at conference

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Don't tell 16-year-old Nicole Davis that peer counseling doesn't work — she's already helped save one friend from heroin.

        “She couldn't find anybody else for help so she came to me,” said the sophomore at Whitmer High School in Toledo. “I know with some of my friends that have gone through some stuff, I've helped them get out of different situations.”

        On Thursday, Nicole was among 7,000 high school and elementary school students who attended the National Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Ed ucation (PRIDE) World Drug Conference. Being at the conference gives her reassurance that teens can — and do — make a difference.

        There was even more good news Thursday: Fewer Ohio fourth-, sixth- and eighth-graders are using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs than three years ago.

        More than 165,000 students, ages 9-14, from 1,421 schools in 335 public school districts and three dioceses participated in the Ohio PRIDE survey.

        Ohio First Lady Hope Taft said fewer students are using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs because parents, community groups and state officials are “working together to get the same message out ... which is to be a success and stay drug-free.”

        “Parents must talk to their children early and often about how alcohol and other drugs affect their lives,” said Luceille Fleming, director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. “We just can't do it without the parents.”

        And more students need to look to their parents as role models because so many people look up to people who have the nice cars and everything, said one student.

        “They see how they're living, they see what they smoke, they see what they do and so they want to be like them,” said Renesia Randolph, 18, a senior at Osceola High School in Arkansas.

        Cortny Schwartz, 16, a sophomore from Oak Harbor High School in Oak Harbor, Ohio, said, “I've learned that being different isn't bad.”

        Shane Ankney, a fifth-grader at Mount Airy Elementary School, was one of the youngest students at the conference, which runs through Saturday at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center downtown.

        “I'm learning why not to use drugs and what can happen to you if you do. And you need to not hang around the places where drugs are,” the 11-year-old said.

        The PRIDE study found:

        • Thirty-six percent of Ohio eighth-graders smoked cigarettes at least once in the past year, compared to 39 percent nationally. Thirty-eight percent used beer, compared to 40 percent nationwide, and 16 percent used marijuana com pared to 19 percent nationally.

        • Thirty-seven percent of eighth-graders said teachers talk to them often or a lot about the harmful effects of drugs, compared with 30 percent who said their parents do so.

        • Use of marijuana among eighth-graders doubled from 7.4 percent in 1992 to 16.2 percent in 1998. Marijuana use overall remained stable since 1995.

        • Three percent of fourth-graders said they inhaled glue, solvents and aerosol sprays at least once a month.

        • One in five eighth-graders — 21 percent — smoked cigarettes at least once a month and one out of seven — 14.5 percent — drank beer monthly.


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