14, 2017 – By almost every measure, Ontario students in grades 7 through 12 are
drinking, smoking, and using drugs at
the lowest rates since the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health
Survey (OSDUHS) began
in 1977. This according to new numbers released
today by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
But new data
on fentanyl use in the student population, included for the first time in this
survey, is raising concerns given the health risks of this potent opioid drug.
survey of 11,435 students is Canada’s longest-running systematic study of drug
use among youth, and one of the longest-running in the world.
In most categories, drug and alcohol use
are at the lowest levels ever recorded
past 40 years, the OSDUHS has found a general trend in student drug use, with
use peaking in the late 1970s, followed by a gradual decline through the 1980s
and early 1990s, a second peak in the late 1990s, and then another gradual decline
to the current low levels.
most recent peak almost 20 years ago, consumption of the most commonly-used
drugs has gone down substantially, including:
- ALCOHOL: from 66 per cent to 42.5
- CANNABIS: from 28 per cent to 19 per
- TOBACCO CIGARETTES: from 28.4 per
cent to 7 per cent
- DRINKING AND DRIVING: from 14 per
cent to 4.2 per cent
of prescription opioids, which has only been monitored since 2007, has dropped
from 20.6 per cent to 10.6 per cent amongst this population during that time.
decline in drug use over the past two decades has occurred for both male and female
students. “These long-term declines are
very positive findings, and point to the success of efforts by parents,
educators, public health and government – and the students themselves – to
address substance use and the problems it can create,” said CAMH Independent
Scientist Dr. Hayley Hamilton,
co-lead of the survey. “Nevertheless, we
must remember that substance use among students can quickly begin to increase,
as we have seen in the past, so a long-term and continued commitment to public
health goals is necessary”.
numbers of Ontario students are reporting abstaining from any use of drugs,
alcohol, cigarettes and other smoking devices. For example, in 1999, just over
one in four students (27 per cent) abstained from drug use in the previous
year. That number now approaches one in
two students (44 per cent).
Exceptions to the long-term decline
in student drug use
non-medical use of ADHD drugs (Ritalin, Adderall, etc.) has increased
significantly since monitoring first began a decade ago, more than doubling
from 1 per cent to 2.3 per cent.
use of over-the-counter cough and cold medicine has increased since the last
survey in 2015, from 6.4 to 9.2 per cent. The increase in use was evident among males (from 6.7 per
cent in 2015 to 11.2 per cent in 2017), but not females.
after cannabis use is down from its peak of up to 20 per cent in the 2000s, the
current rate of 9 per cent has been stable for a few years, and is about twice
the proportion of students who report driving after drinking (4 per cent). “While we have seen important declines in
substance use and risk behaviours, some of them, like driving after cannabis
use, driving after drinking, and tobacco use appear to have reached plateaus
where no further declines have been seen recently,” says CAMH Senior Scientist Dr.
Robert Mann, co-lead of the
survey. “Under these circumstances it is
important to consider how we might make further progress in these areas.”
Fentanyl and opioids
concerns about fentanyl, researchers included a new question to assess student use
of the drug. While just under 1 per cent
of high school students report past-year use, that figure represents about
5,800 grades 9 to 12 students using fentanyl, which has become synonymous with
the opioid crisis.
a very dangerous opioid, and any proportion of students using this hazardous
drug is alarming,” said Dr. Hamilton.
Cannabis use and views on legalization
the most commonly used illicit drug among Ontario students, as 19 per cent of
students in grades 7-12 report past year use (about 172,200 students).
Prevalence of cannabis use does not differ between males and females, and use
increases up to about 37 per cent among 12th graders.
cannabis set to become legal in Canada in July 2018, students were asked for
the first time about their views on legalization. Students were equally divided
on being in favour of legalization (35 per cent), opposed to it (33 per cent), or
being unsure (32 per cent).
two-thirds of students (62 per cent) said they do not intend to use cannabis
when it is legalized for adults. Eight per
cent said they would try cannabis when it becomes legal. Of those consuming cannabis now, 4 per cent
said they intend to use it more often when it becomes legal.
Use of electronic cigarettes continues
to surpass tobacco cigarettes
survey continued to show that more students use electronic cigarettes than
tobacco cigarettes, as 11 per cent of students (about 80,800 in grades 7-12 in
Ontario) use e-cigarettes compared with 7 per cent who smoke tobacco cigarettes
(about 63,800 students). Males are more likely than females to use both types
of cigarettes. Use of e-cigarettes has been stable since 2015, when monitoring
first began. Cigarette smoking, while currently lower than decades ago, has
remained stable for the past few years.
for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and
addiction teaching hospital and a world leading research centre in this field.
CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health
promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and
addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a
Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating
2016-17 school year, 11,435 students in grades 7 to 12 from 214 publicly funded
schools across Ontario participated in the OSDUHS survey, administered on
behalf of CAMH by the Institute for Social Research at York University.
Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)