Source: The Mercury, 3 February, 1998, p.3


Drugs rife in schools

Marijuana,
painkillers
most used

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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