Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

October 03, 2011 09:37 ET

National Report Sheds Light on Student Alcohol and Drug Use

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 3, 2011) - Authors of a new report released today on alcohol and drug use by high school students across Canada raise concern about the prevalence of alcohol and cannabis use among senior high school students (grades 10-12). Specifically, they highlight the percentage of 12th graders who report drinking to excess, using cannabis daily, and/or driving after drinking or using cannabis.

The report found that among grade 12 students*:

  • 41% to 52% report consuming five or more drinks on one occasion in the past month
  • 12% to 20% report driving within an hour of having two or more drinks
  • 15% to 27% report past-month cannabis use
  • 3% to 10% report using cannabis daily or almost daily
  • 14% to 21% report driving within an hour of using cannabis

"We are concerned about the health and safety of those students engaging in excessive use of alcohol and cannabis as this pattern of use is more highly associated with harms," said Dr. Matthew Young, a Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and lead author on the report. "Harms include negative effects on academic performance as well an increased risk of developing mental health disorders."

"We are also concerned about the rates of impaired driving," explains Dr. Young. "There are misconceptions that driving under the influence of cannabis does not affect ability to drive. This is simply not the case. From 2000 to 2007, 47% of all drivers 19 years of age or younger who died in motor vehicle crashes had used alcohol and/or drugs. Cannabis was among the most common psychoactive substances found in fatally injured drivers."

These are among the findings of the Cross Canada Report on Student Alcohol and Drug Use. The report, which represents a national picture of student alcohol and drug use among junior high and high school students across Canada has been assembled using provincial student survey data. Published by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and the Student Drug Use Surveys (SDUS) Working Group**, the report provides Canadians with information about youth substance issues – specifically, the prevalence and patterns of use, as well as the risks and harms associated with youth alcohol and drug use across the country.

While the prevalence and patterns of use among senior high school students causes significant concern, the data also indicate that the majority of students in junior high (i.e., grades 7-9) don't use alcohol or other drugs. "It is important that those in their early teen years know that the majority of their peers are not using alcohol or other drugs. This fact may influence their decisions whether or not to start or continue using in the future," said Dr. Young.

"This report, and in particular the findings on excessive use of alcohol and cannabis, validate the long-term commitments CCSA and our government have taken toward substance abuse," said Michel Perron, Chief Executive Officer, CCSA. "Substance abuse is a major problem and a major contributor to chronic diseases in Canada. Having a national picture on the use of alcohol and other drugs among young Canadians helps us understand where the challenges exist and the efforts required to address them."

CCSA and the SDUS Working Group agree that in addition to providing knowledge on the situation and related opportunities for action, information contained in the report can also help support jurisdictional and national policy, research, prevention, and treatment initiatives. It is expected that this collaboration will continue in the future on similar reports.

Visit the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse web site to view Cross Canada Report on Student Alcohol and Drug Use

* Prevalence estimates provided in the Cross Canada Report on Student Alcohol and Drug Use are provided as a range (e.g., from 10 to 15%) because the data are a collection of estimates provided by the various participating provinces who have regularly occurring student drug use surveys.

Please note: Differences in methodologies employed by the various contributing surveys limits the extent to which interprovincial comparisons can and should be made. Where differences between the provinces exist, it is unclear whether these differences represent real variations in student alcohol and drug use, or differences due to survey methods.

**The SDUS working group is composed of a representative from each of the following regularly occurring surveys: The British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey, The Alberta Youth Experience Survey, The Manitoba Student Alcohol and Drug Use Survey, The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, The Québec Survey of Tobacco, Drug Use and Gambling in High School Students, The Student Drug Use Survey in the Atlantic Provinces (which collects data in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador).

About CCSA:

With a legislated mandate to reduce alcohol- and other drug-related harms, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) provides leadership on national priorities, fosters knowledge translation within the field and creates sustainable partnerships that maximize collective efforts. CCSA receives funding support from Health Canada.

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