Drug and Alcohol Use Stabilizes, but Prescription Pain Relievers Emerge as a Concern
Canada’s longest running school survey reveals surprising data on Ontario Youth
For Immediate Release – November 20, 2007 (TORONTO) – While alcohol, cannabis and other drug use among Ontario teens has remained stable or decreased, the misuse of prescription opioid drugs may be a cause for concern according to the 2007 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). These surprising data are the first comprehensive Canadian survey results on non-medical use of prescription opioid pain relievers.
Released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) today, OSDUHS found that 21% of Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 report using prescription opioid pain relievers such as TYLENOL®No. 3and Percocet® for non-medical purposes; and almost 72% report obtaining the drugs from home. In addition, among all drugs asked about, OxyContin® was the only drug to show a significant, but small, increase in non-medical use since the last survey (2% of students reported using it in 2007, representing about 18,100 students, versus 1% in 2005).
Generally, the lack of increase in the use of other drugs is encouraging and may reflect the health promotion initiatives that have been taken over the years. “The reasons for the increase in OxyContin® use are currently unknown, and we need to monitor this finding to determine whether it is a real trend or a one-time finding. However, the finding that 72% of the student users report obtaining the drugs from home suggests that some intervention with families might be appropriate,” said Louis Gliksman, Acting Chief of Research at CAMH and spokesperson for the study.
Alcohol remains students’ drug of choice. Almost two-thirds (61%) of all students drink alcohol. Binge drinking (consuming at least 5 drinks on the same occasion) still remains high, as approximately 26% of students are likely to engage in this behaviour. The proportion of all students who may be drinking hazardously (defined as a risky pattern of alcohol use that increases the likelihood of physical, psychological, or social problems) is at 19% and has not changed since 2005.
While the study shows a general decline in illicit drug use over the past decade, 26% of students reported using cannabis at least once in the past year. Among all students, 14% reported using cannabis six times or more during the past year. Also, more students with a driver’s licence report driving after using cannabis than after using alcohol (16% versus 12% respectively). The proportion of students reporting riding in a vehicle with a driver who had been using drugs declined since the last survey, but still remains elevated at 18%.
More encouraging news was revealed in the data on smoking. Only a small minority (5%) of all students report smoking on a daily basis, and 72% report never having tried a cigarette in their lifetime. The prevalence of daily smoking has been declining since the late 1990s, and the 2007 rate is the lowest on record since monitoring began in 1977. However, there is still a significant percentage of students (12% or about 119,900 students) that do smoke either occasionally or daily.
“This survey indicates that it is the legal drugs--alcohol and prescription opioids--that are being used by Ontario’s youth today, and our governments’ efforts to address substance use among youth need to be in synch with that reality if we want to improve the health of our young people,” said Gail Czukar, CAMH’s VP of Policy, Education and Health Promotion.
Other survey highlights include:
- In addition to use of prescription opioid pain relievers, 2007 is also the first year that students were asked about their use of over-the-counter sleeping medication (4%), Jimson Weed (3%), and the non-medical use of attention deficient/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs (1%).
- Despite recent attention on methamphetamine (‘speed’) and crystal methamphetamine (‘crystal meth’), there is no evidence that either drug has diffused into the student population in Ontario. In fact, past year use of methamphetamine significantly decreased between 2005 (2%) and 2007 (1%).
- About 3% of all students used cannabis daily during the 4 weeks before the survey (representing about 27,300 Ontario students in grades 7 to 12). About 3% of all students may have a cannabis dependence problem (representing about 28,700 students).
- About 15% of students report getting drunk or high at school at least once during the past year, and one-in-five (21%) were sold, given or offered a drug at school.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, CAMH's Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) is Canada’s longest running school survey of adolescents, describing drug use and changes since 1977. During the 2006-2007 school year, 6,323 students in grades 7 to 12 participated in the survey administered by the Institute for Social Research, York University. The sample represents about 1,011,200 Ontario students in grades 7 through 12.
For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Michael Torres, Media Relations, CAMH at (416) 595-6015.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.
CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development, prevention and health promotion to transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues.