Source: The Mercury, 3 February, 1998, p.3
By STUART DIWELL MARIJUANA and over- the-counter painkillers were the most common drugs used by Tasman- ian high school students, a State Government survey has found. The Cancer Council of Tas- mania survey made public yesterday found 64% of 16 year-old boys and 49% of girls said they had used marijuana at least once. It also found 35% of boys and 48% of girls aged 13 to 16 said they had used nonprescription painkillers for non-medical reasons in the week prior to the survey. The survey of students 12 to 17 also asked about the use of other drugs including seda- tives, steroids, inhalants such as glue, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine, opiates and hallucinogens. In the week before the survey, 4% of 14-year-old boys and 2% of boys 15 and 16 said they had used cocaine. If the figures are correct it means about 100 14-year-old boys across Tasmania used cocaine in the week prior to the survey. Opiates were used by up to 3% of boys and 1% of girls while up to 3% of boys and 2% of girls said they used hallucinogens such as LSD. Use figures increased over time for all drugs. Previously released infor mation from the survey showed about half of boys 16 and 17 described themselves as heavy drinkers and 30% were binge drinkers. Alcohol and Drug Services state manager John Leary said the survey highlighted the range of illegal and legal substances being abused by high school students. "It is the first survey of its type in the state and will enable the Government to develop a plan for action and intervention to combat the use of pharmaceutical drugs and illegal substances among young people," he said. "It also will help us monitor the trends in substance use among young Tasmanians." Mr Leary said the plan was to repeat the survey every three years. The use of painkillers was similar to that found in surveys of Victorian and New South Wales high school children. However, beyond their easy availability there was little information on why they were so popular. Mr Leary said while the findings were not particularly surprising, the results were of great concern. Education and Vocational Training Minister Sue Napier said health and physical education had been targeted as a curriculum priority up to the year 2000. It would include both programs and better school community habits and practices dealing with such issues as drug education, healthy living, daily fitness, good food and nutrition, stress control and recreation. While schools had a role to play in promoting the health and well-being of students, the assistance of parents and the community was vital. The survey was held in 1996 and involved 2448 students aged 12 to 17 in 35 state and private secondary schools. Twelve schools refused to take part. The students were asked to fill out a 22-page questionnaire on drug usage.
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