Kootenay youth substance use trending downward: survey

A biennial survey distributed to regional schools shows that youth substance use is decreasing

Kootenay youth substance use trending downward: survey

Data collected from a youth survey shows that substance use among adolescents is trending downward in the East Kootenay region, according to the East Kootenay Addiction Services Society (EKASS).

The survey — distributed in schools throughout the Elk Valley, Cranbrook, Columbia Valley and Creston — invited students between Grade 7-12 to anonymously answer questions on substance use.

Three main conclusions noted that e-cigarette use has become more common that tobacco, opioid use has significantly decreased since 2015, and the legalization of marijuana last year has not led to a statistical increase in usage.

“I don’t think there was anything particularly surprising,” said Dean Nicholson, the executive director of the EKASS. “We were pleased to see that the substance use rates continue to decline or have been stable for quite a while.”

Tobacco use itself continues to decline but the use of e-cigarettes is increasing and is now generally tried before tobacco. However, it is not seen as a ‘gateway’ to tobacco use, according to the report.

Opioid use among youth has declined over the last four years; seven per cent of respondents reported using an opioid, down from 12 per cent in 2015. A similar decrease was also observed in usage of depressant medications such as benzodiazepines.

“I think the good news was, when you start to look more specifically at different kinds of prescription or over-the-counter substances that kids might be using for other reasons, that we’re seeing a decline in the opioid painkiller-type drugs as well as in the depressant drugs like the benzodiazepines,” said Nicholson.

“Given how much of a concern around opioid overdose in the province —and we have had young people in our area overdose and there have been fatalities —it’s good to see kids aren’t using the prescription drugs in that sense, or that that use has declined.”

There has been no statistical increase in marijuana usage among youth given that it was legalized by the federal government last October. Indeed, according to a Statistics Canada report over the first quarter of 2019, there has been an increase in first-time marijuana users, however, they are primarily adults aged 45-64.

“We were encouraged by that, that the legalization didn’t seem to increase use and we didn’t anticipate that it would,” said Nicholson. “We figured that most kids who were using, they were already doing, in theory, illegally before.”

The survey also included a section on student beliefs about marijuana, which posed statements about marijuana use and asked the students to rank the how truthful or false the statements were on a scale of one (mostly false) to five (mostly true).

For example, a statement that marijuana use by youth potentially causes mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia was ranked by a mean score of 3.77.

The average age of first-time usage for substances such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and mushrooms hover around 13 years old. First time use for harder substances such as hallucinogens, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy is slightly older at roughly 14 years old.

Alcohol continues to be the most-used substance by youth, with varying percentages broken down by their Grade level. Other top-used substances include tobacco, e-cigarettes and marijuana.

Alcohol and marijuana use and driving is also generally trending lower, according to the survey results.

The survey has collected substance use data from students every two years since 2002, allowing the EKASS to compare current results with historical trends.The 2019 edition was completed by 3,491 respondents — roughly 73.4 per cent of the regional student population.

While the survey itself has evolved over the years, the data collection remains a valuable source of information to help influence programs and services at the EKASS.

The report is available publicly and is shared with other regional community organizations and advocates.

Nicholson praised the relationship the EKASS has with school districts that have participated in the survey since it first began in 2002.

“I think the way the schools have been able to shift some of their views on substance use is a direct result of the survey results and the way we work together with them,” Nicholson said, “and it certainly changed the way we do things and it continues to change as we look at where there are areas of concern.”



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Kristian Camero and Jessica Wood, seen here, co-own The Black Cauldron with Stephen Barton. The new Nelson restaurant opened earlier this month while indoor dining is restricted by the province. Photo: Tyler Harper
A restaurant opens in Nelson, and no one is allowed inside

The Black Cauldron opened while indoor dining is restricted in B.C.

These two city-owned houses on Railway Avenue in the Railtown district will be sold. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
City of Nelson will sell two derelict houses in Railtown

Purchasers will be responsible for demolition and slope stability issues

First-year Selkirk College student Terra-Mae Box is one of many talented writers who will read their work at the Black Bear Review’s annual (virtual) launch on April 22. Photo: Submitted
Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks games against Leafs postponed as team returns from COVID-19

The team has had 11 games postponed since an outbreak late last month

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read