Recent History – 1999
Nov. 8, 1999, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Signs of both encouragement and concern about the prevalence of drugs and alcohol amongst South Peace youth have been unveiled in a recently-completed survey. The number of youths 12 and under who answered yes when asked if they’ve ever used drugs or alcohol has dropped dramatically compared those who took part in a 1996 survey.
But there has been a marked increase in the number of 17-18 year olds and those over 18 who say they’ve used drugs and an across-the-board increase in the frequency of use.
“It means our usage rates are up and they were high already,” said drug and alcohol counsellor Brent Neumann about the increases among the older youths.
Results of the survey of 1,682 youths in School District #59 were released Friday by Neumann on behalf of the South Peace Addiction Awareness Committee.
The respondents were asked up to 58 questions about alcohol and drug related behaviour and about gambling behaviour.
Neumann said he was encouraged by the response rate of those 12 and under when asked if they’ve ever used drugs or alcohol:
– 27.4 per cent answered yes in 1999 to the question “have you ever used alcohol?”, compared to 41.6 per cent in 1996.
– 3.6 per cent answered yes in 1999 to the question “have you ever used drugs?”, compared to 12.4 per cent in 1996.
“We’re obviously having some sort of impact, at least in getting children to say no for a longer time period,” he said.
That’s particularly good news, he said, because studies show that the earlier one becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, the tougher it is to break the habit.
But Neumann is less encouraged by the numbers for the older youths when asked “have you ever used drugs?”
– 67.5 per cent of 17-18 year olds said yes, compared to 56.4 per cent in 1996.
– 79.2 per cent of over 18 year olds said yes, compared to 66.7 per cent.
He also noted that the frequency of use has gone up across the board, when respondents were asked “how often on average do you drink or do drugs?”
– Less than once per month: 47.5 per cent compared to 35.9 per cent in 1996.
– Two to three times per month: 25 per cent compared to 16 per cent in 1996.
– Once per week: 12.7 per cent compared to 8.5 per cent in 1996.
– Twice to four times per week: 8.4 per cent compared to 6.3 per cent in 1996.
– More than four times per week: 6.2 per cent compared to 6.0 per cent in 1996.
Neumann said the increase indicates that more and more older youth no longer see drug and alcohol use as a problem anymore. But for some it is, but they may not realize it.
“What they call it in the addictions field is denial,” he said. “Basically you’re not taking a hard look at what’s going on in your life.
“If you’ve got six per cent of the kids using four time or more a week, how does that impact on your schooling, how does that impact on your studies, how does that impact on your social life? Do you have a social life, or are you just drinking and drugging?”
The numbers also worry George Wiens, the drug and alcohol counsellor at the Nawican Friendship Centre. Drinking and doing drugs at a younger age means a greater chance of addiction, he said.
“The development of an addiction is actually accelerated in that what a person who started drinking after they reached full adult maturity may take two, three, four, five years or longer to develop and be recognized as an alcoholic,” he said. “You can have that happen with 15 and 16 year olds, it is short as six to 12 months.”
But some help is on the way. The province has put in over $900,000 into the Peace for new programming, and a new child-youth position is being established in the city.
“Someone who would be focused specifically on youth and families meaning that we’ll have far more consistency, far more visibility,” Neumann said.
And a regional youth addictions treatment program is being set up in Fort St. John, replete with a small detox centre which should be ready early in the new year.
Wiens said a detox centre is important because the client should be “clean and sober” before going in for extended treatment.
“If they’re coming in and they’re detoxing in the first week to 10 days, they’ve basically lost that out of the 28 days that most treatment programs run,” he said. “Because a person is just not ready and able to receive the information.”
It’s recommended that adults consume no more than 12 ounces of alcohol per week, and at a rate of no more than three-to-four drinks at a time, Wiens said.