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Drug Abuse in Students of Ontario

Shalana Switzer
Let’s face it. Being a teenager is not easy. Not only are they going through a lot of changes both physically and emotionally, with the increasing pressures on today’s youth students to establish ambitious goals and exceed social expectations, adhere to social norms and attempt to ‘fit in’, it only adds to the challenges that today’s youth face.

student cocaine Of course, there is no one reason that contributes to substance use and abuse. Some of the few reasons can include simple curiosity, an escape/outlet for underlying negative or toxic personal situations or peer pressure from friends and society. And while it is expected that a teenager will try alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs at some point in their adolescence, youth substance abuse can eventually lead to dependence and addiction. The question is this: is it getter better or worse? Are we succeeding in educating our youth? What do the statistics show?

The truth of the matter is that according to recent Canadian statistics, substance abuse is steadily rising and our youth are a big part of the equation. A recent report by www.teenchallenge.ca, called the Canadian Drug Crisis, highlighted some fact and figures and the stats were quite alarming:
  • 23% of Ontario students have been offered, given or sold a drug at school in the past year.
  • A staggering 83% of Ontario students in Grade 12 consume alcohol and of those almost half have reported that they being drink.
Sadly, these numbers are being reported by more than one institution. A comprehensive report released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), called Drug Use Among Ontario Students in Dec 2013, revealed similar numbers: student drugs
  • Among Ontarians aged 25 to 34, 1 of every 8 deaths is related to opioid use.
  • The top four substances used by Ontario students: alcohol (58%), marijuana (25%), non-prescribed use of prescription pain relievers (17%), and tobacco (11.7%).
  • Approximate 1 in 20 Ontario students (4.4%) in grades 7 to 12 reported that they had used cocaine at least once in the past year. That is almost 40,000 students.
According to Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse CCSA:
  • Level of prescription opioids consumption in Canada is the second largest in the world.
  • Deaths related to prescription opioid use doubled for the last 10 years in Ontario.
Even though the reports do show high numbers of use, the 2015 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) shows that past year drug use have gone down in most cases compared to the results from 1999. However, compared to the numbers from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), it appears a much higher percentage of Ontario youth are abusing drugs than the general Canadian population. With all these alarming numbers, there is some good news as well. Outside of alcohol consumption, it was reported approximately 62% of all students did not use any illicit substance and 33% did not use any drugs. Here are some more detailed results from that survey:

1999 Students Grades 9-12 reporting past year drug use (stats from OSDUHS) 2015 Students Grades 9-12 reporting past year drug use (stats from OSDUHS) 2013 General population age 15+ reporting past year drug use (stats from CCSA)
Prescription Sedatives 2.5% 2.1% n/a
Methamphetamine 6.3% 1.1% Less than 1% (2004)
Ecstasy (MDMA) 5.3% 5.4% 0.4%

1999 Students Grades 7-12 reporting past year drug use (stats from OSDUHS) 2015 Students Grades 7-12 reporting past year drug use (stats from OSDUHS) 2013 General population age 15+ reporting past year drug use (stats from CCSA)
Prescription Opioids 20.6% (2007) 10% 0.3% (non-prescription use)
ADHD Medication 1% (2007) 2.1% n/a
Cannabis 28% 21.3% 8% (adults age 25+)
Volatile Solvents / Inhalants 8.9% 2.8% n/a

The good:
  • Reported non-prescription use of prescription opioids among Ontario students grades 7-12 has reduced by 50% in just 8 years.
  • Both Cannabis and Inhalants use has decreased by 6% between 1999 and 2015.
The bad:
  • Cannabis use among Ontario students grades 7-12 is still nearly 3 times as much as the general Canadian population over the age of 25
  • The abuse of ADHD medication among Ontario students grades 7-12 has double since 2007.
  • Ecstasy use among Ontario students, grades 9-12 remains virtually unchanged (0.1%).
The rate of non-prescription use of opioids among Ontario students, grades 7-12 is 33 times higher than the Canadian general population over age 15. The truly scary part is 5 of the above 7 mentioned substances can be obtained legally. The current government is currently considering further regulations to monitor and control the availability of these substances to the youth population but education begins at home. Parents are continuously being encouraged to open a dialogue about substance abuse with their children to build awareness and responsibility. And there are organizations that in Ontario that work to provide programs and resources to teens and children for help and support.
Shalana Switzer April 26, 2016

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