BY B.G. GREGG
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Fewer Cincinnati-area students said they smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, used marijuana and took LSD than a year ago, according to a survey released Thursday.
Still, greater percentages of local high school seniors were smoking cigarettes (56.2), drinking beer (67.9) and using marijuana (39.8) than students nationally.
The survey of more than 13,000 students in the seventh and 12th grades in six Ohio counties was conducted by the Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE), based in Atlanta.
"We can celebrate a bit, take a breather and then get right back and double our efforts," said Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, who started the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati to combat drug use. "These numbers are still unacceptably high. We still have a lot of work to do."
The survey showed declines of between 4 and 6 percentage points in most categories of drug use. Use of cocaine by seventh-graders increased by one-tenth of a point. Nationally, most percentages of drug use stayed the same or increased slightly.
Paul Zimmerman, a market research manager at Procter
& Gamble and a member of the Drug-Free Coalition's board, said the declines are statistically significant.
"It's down more than what I would consider a statistical wobble," he said.
Survey a pop quiz
The PRIDE survey was sprung on students. They were given 25 minutes to answer questions and told their answers would be anonymous. Monthly use is more indicative of frequent use. More than 40 percent of students said they had smoked cigarettes or drank beer in the past month. More than 20 percent had smoked marijuana, while less than 10 percent used cocaine, uppers, downers, inhalants or hallucinogens in the past month.
Cigarette use is monitored because most students surveyed are under 18 and it is illegal for them to smoke, and nicotine is a drug.
Mr. Portman said the drug-free coalition might have something to do with the falling numbers. He pointed out that the coalition has trained 3,000 parents in 30 schools to spot the symptoms of drug use and talk to their kids about avoiding drugs. The group has received $1.5 million in free TV and radio advertising for anti-drug messages. "We are getting at the demand side," he said.
Two students attending the release of the survey results said drugs are readily available, but a lot of students are saying no.
"The drug-free lifestyle is a popular lifestyle," said Jake Hodesh, a senior at Wyoming High School. "There's a misconception out there that all kids use drugs."
"It just depends on who you hang out with," said Chanda Sanders, a senior at Lockland High school. "You don't have to do it if you don't want to."
The PRIDE survey does not include students in Cincinnati Public Schools. They participate in the Citizens Against Substance Abuse (CASA) study conducted every two years.
The 1997 CASA study, which questioned 35,000 students, found that 48 percent in grades seven to 12 drank
alcohol in the past year, 30 percent had smoked marijuana and 30 percent had smoked cigarettes.
About this study
The Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE), in conjunction with the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati, surveyed 13,180 students from 14 school districts in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont, Warren, Brown and Adams counties.
Cincinnati Public Schools students are not included because they participate in another study conducted every two years.
The PRIDE study is conducted annually with about 140,000 students, and is considered by Congress and President Clinton's National Drug Control Strategy as a reliable indicator of drug use. It is also cited in the Bureau of Justice Statistics Sourcebook.