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Survey: Teen marijuana use prevalent

Posted: January 30, 2012 - 9:59pm

A small group of Soldotna High School students said they believe more teens drink alcohol than smoke marijuana. 

“More kids drink on a regular basis than smoke pot on a regular basis,” said David Burger, senior.

There was a brief moment of disagreement among the students, then senior Jared Lingafelt reiterated the group’s statement. 

“A lot of students drink on the weekends at parties, and some people smoke during weekdays,” he said. “What I mean is more people will go drink at those parties than choose to smoke (regularly).”

Incidents involving marijuana are a constant concern for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Pot is readily available in the Central Peninsula, officials and high school students said.

Former Nikiski Middle-High School principal of six years John O’Brien said marijuana was the most prevalent issue. 

“Definitely over the past several years there was more with marijuana than there were with alcohol,” he said. 

More teens around the nation are turning to pot while alcohol use among the same age group has dipped to historic lows, according to an annual national survey of drug use released December 2011.

According to the Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey for 2011, 21.2 percent of high school students used marijuana one or more times during the past 30 days. And 16.7 percent had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row within a couple hours on one or more of the past 30 days. The survey is conducted by the state’s Department of Health and Social Services.

Kristie Sellers, director of behavioral health at Central Peninsula Hospital, works with the community’s high-risk teens. About 75 percent of the adolescents in the hospital’s Diamond Willow Program have experimented with marijuana, she said. 

The percentage of teens reporting they see “great risk” in using marijuana generally has dropped in recent years. One of every 15 high school seniors reported smoking pot on a daily or near daily basis, the highest rate since 1981, according to the national survey.  

Sellers said teens’ beliefs about the risks of pot are linked to its “legal” options, medical marijuana and spice or K2, synthetic marijuana. The accessibility of pot also adds to the presumption. 

Alcohol has a protected quality because of its legal status, but the Peninsula has focused on its education in recent years, she said. 

“There’s been some education aimed at alcohol and trying to limit alcohol use among teens, but marijuana is very easy to get your hands on in our community,” Sellers said. “I guess the drawback of doing good in one area is that problems pop up elsewhere.”

Marijuana isn’t less harmful than alcohol, and vice versa. Both have varying negative effects on users, Sellers said. 

Alcohol is linked to crime more often than illegal drugs, according to researchers at the University of California. Its consumption promotes aggressiveness, and victimization may lead to excessive alcohol use, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

The effects of pot are different. Marijuana use comes with a very specific Amotivational Syndrome, a condition associated with diminished energy to participate in social activities. 

“It causes people not to do the things they dream of accomplishing in their lives,” Sellers said. “It’s not just a safe recreational activity, because it damages people’s relationships and career tracks. It may also cause legal problems.”

Senior Abby Hanna shared a similar outlook. 

“If students choose to use marijuana they’re already deciding they don’t want to do much with their lives,” she said. 

Hanna and her peers admitted that drug use during school hours at Soldotna High School is apparent to the students as well as the administrators. 

“There’s definitely people who are high, especially after lunch, or they smoke in the morning before they come to school,” Lingafelt said. “It’s easy to notice. You can smell it, or you can just tell they’re stoned.” 

O’Brien said administrators investigate every reasonable suspicion, but the students aren’t aware. 

“A lot of that is obviously behind the scenes,” he said. “So, the students perspectives might be that administrators aren’t doing much, but certainly when there’s reasonable suspicion an investigation does occur.”

The KPBSD policy on drugs and alcohol says it intends to maintain a drug-free school environment; to educated students about the issues related to drugs, alcohol and controlled substances; and to identify students who have chemical abuse problems.

Students under the influence or in possession of drugs at school are reported to law enforcement and their parents, and are subject to suspension for up to 45 days. 

In 2011, a total of nine students were caught under the influence of drugs. The same number of students were caught with drugs, according to KPBSD stats. 

The recent numbers are on the low end. A total of 21 students were caught with drugs in 2006, and 18 were caught under the influence of drugs in 2008. 

Alcohol offenses are lower than drug offenses over the past six years. In 2011, three students were caught under the influence of alcohol and six students were caught in possession of alcohol. 

There are alternatives to prolonged suspension for students who are caught with drugs or alcohol. The Alternative to Out-of-School Suspension (ATOSS) program gives students the chance to return to school faster. 

Students complete a number of criteria, such as participating in academic tutoring, undergoing drug and alcohol screening and taking online courses among other requirements. 

“Obviously, if a student is out for 30 days that’s going to have an impact on grades and his or her ability to earn credit,” O’Brien said. “This gives the student a chance to get back into class sooner.”

 

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com. 

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whoisthecoon
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whoisthecoon 01/31/12 - 06:06 pm
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"Marijuana isn’t less harmful

"Marijuana isn’t less harmful than alcohol, and vice versa. Both have varying negative effects on users, Sellers said."

Oh come on! you cant be saying something so blatantly incorrect like that Sellers. I'm not in support of kids doing either of these drugs, but if kids are switching from alcohol to weed.....im all for it. Do some research, alcohol is much more dangerous.

Ya the kids may not be as "chipper" and will be more apt to develop a more sedentary lifestyle, at least they wont be drunk driving and risking alcohol poisoning and many other problems.

(on a side note: MANY adults are marijuana users and are successful in life. No doubt in my mind that some of the teachers at SOHI smoke weed.)

spwright
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spwright 01/31/12 - 06:52 pm
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Effects

Marijuana will make You Hungry Horny Sleepy & Stupid

Alcohol will make You 6 foot 9 & bullet proof & mean as Hell
& Stupid.

oldwolf49
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oldwolf49 02/01/12 - 02:56 am
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Use prevelant.......

REALLY....................???

malcolmkyle
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malcolmkyle 02/01/12 - 03:24 am
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Your article is grossly misleading!

Alcohol is a factor in the following:

* 73% of all felonies * 73% of child beating cases * 41% of rape cases * 80% of wife battering cases * 72% of stabbings * 83% of homicides.

According to the Australian National Drug Research Institute (2003): "Tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs are prematurely killing around seven million people worldwide each year, and robbing tens of millions more of a healthy life. The research into the global burden of disease attributable to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs found that in 2000, tobacco use was responsible for 4.9 million deaths worldwide, equating to 71 percent of all drug-related deaths. Around 1.8 million deaths were attributable to the use of alcohol (26 percent of all drug-related deaths), and illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine and amphetamines) caused approximately 223,000 deaths (3 percent of all drug-related deaths)."

According to DrugRehabs.Org, national mortality figures for 2009 were: tobacco 435,000; poor diet and physical inactivity 365,000; alcohol 85,000; microbial agents 75,000; toxic agents 55,000; motor vehicle crashes 26,347; adverse reactions to prescription drugs 32,000; suicide 30,622; incidents involving firearms 29,000; homicide 20,308; sexual behaviors 20,000; all illicit drug use, direct and indirect 17,000; and marijuana 0.

Researchers led by Professor David Nutt, a former chief drugs adviser to the British government, asked drug-harm experts to rank 20 drugs (legal and illegal) on 16 measures of harm to the user and to wider society, such as damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs and crime. Alcohol scored 72 out of a possible 100, far more damaging than heroin (55) or crack cocaine (54). It is the most harmful to others by a wide margin, and is ranked fourth behind heroin, crack, and methamphetamine (crystal meth) for harm to the individual.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2010/11/drugs_cause_most_harm

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that in the U.S. alone, an estimated 79,000 lives are lost annually due to "excessive" drinking. The study estimates that the overall cost of excessive drinking by Americans is $223.5 billion each year.

http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(11)00538-1/abstract

Health-related costs per user are eight times higher for those who drink alcohol when compared to those who use marijuana, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers, according to a 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal.
It states, "In terms of [health-related] costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user."

http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/cannabis/bck/7

Having three or more alcoholic drinks a day increased lung cancer risk by 30 percent.
“Heavy drinking has multiple harmful effects, including cardiovascular complications and increased risk for lung cancer,”
- lead researcher Stanton Siu, MD, of Kaiser Permanente

malcolmkyle
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malcolmkyle 02/01/12 - 03:26 am
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A motivational syndrom; really?

I see you're not yet convinced that this magic plant can actually enhance and improve human abilities? Here are just a few of the many highly motivated athletes whose drug of choice is cannabis/marijuana:

* Usain Bolt, the 2008 World Record holder of the 100 and 200 meter sprint.

* Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer ever with 14 Olympic gold medals.

* Tim Linecum, the National League baseball’s Cy Young Award winner for 2009.

* Santonio Holmes, the Super Bowl XLII’s MVP.

* Mark Stepnoski, two-time Super Bowl champion. "I'd rather smoke than take painkillers."

* Randy Moss, NFL single season touchdown reception record (23, set in 2007), and the NFL single-season touchdown reception record for a rookie (17, in 1998). Moss has founded, and financed many charitable endeavors including the the Links for Learning foundation, formed in 2008.

* Ricky Williams, the Heisman Trophy Winner in 1998. Throughout his life, Williams has dealt with anxiety and depression. He used to advertise the prescription drug Paxil. However he later stated “Marijuana is 10 times better for me than Paxil.”

* Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leader in points scored (38,387), games played, minutes played, field goals made, field goal attempts, blocked shots and defensive rebounds. During his career with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers from 1969 to 1989, Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA championships and a record six regular season MVP Awards. He has a prescription to smoke marijuana in California, which he says he uses to control nausea and migraine headaches. He has been arrested twice for marijuana possession.

* "I just let him know that most of the players in the league use marijuana and I have and do partake in smoking weed in the offseason" - Josh Howard, forward for the Dallas Mavericks. Howard admitted to smoking marijuana on Michel Irvin’s ESPN show.

* "You got guys out there playing high every night. You got 60% of your league on marijuana. What can you do?" - Charles Oakley (Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets)

* "I personally know boxers, body builders, cyclists, runners and athletes from all walks of life that train and compete with the assistance of marijuana," - WWE wrestler Rob Van Dam

* Some of the best cricket players of all time, like Phil Tufnell and Sir Ian Botham, have admitted to regularly using marijuana to deal with stress and muscle aches. In 2001, half of South Africa's cricket team was caught smoking marijuana with the team physiotherapist. They were celebrating a championship victory in the Caribbean.

bigbaker
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bigbaker 02/01/12 - 09:30 am
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???

I'm surprised that the Clarion is letting this kind of journalism slip through the editing room. This article, among MILLIONS others will go down as a biased, NON-EDUCATED work of pure garbage. Not only that, but the Clarion has deleted over 10 other comments that were already on this page.

Nice try Clarion....

FAIL

BrianW
56
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BrianW 02/01/12 - 09:34 am
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Let's get it Straight

Ok- people who say let's get educated about the effects of marijuana versus booze probably need to do that before speaking. You sound stupid. Any way you cut it, driving under the influence is illegal and deadly dangerous.

Marijuana has a similar effect on your arteries as cigarette use does (it thickens them). It has carcinogen effects as well. I'm not saying that drinking is any better. In fact it can damage your liver, your kidneys, your respiratory system your heart and your brain.

Keep your children active. Educate them and stay involved as a parent. Don't trust them because they are your baby and would never do anything like the "other" kids. They will if you aren't involved and keep them active.

I think the police should relly interrogate the heck out of these kids that get busted with it and find out where they got it from. Then move on to the dirt bags the kids get this crap from. What we tolerate is what we will live with. If I ever catch my kid smoking pot, I will guarantee you that I will find out where he gets it from and I will be at the door step of the scum bag who gives it to kids. Take that to the bank.

cheapersmokes
744
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cheapersmokes 02/01/12 - 09:38 am
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Drug Users!

I was surprised that nicotine wasn't mentioned in this article. I can remember when I took these same type of surveys in high school. We all got together and decided that we would claim everything we could think of to make it look like we were all bound for prison time. So I don't put much faith in them even to this day. It is mainly up to the parents to talk to and set the example for their kids.

Wonder what the cost and time lost teaching these surveys take up!

spwright
1376
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spwright 02/01/12 - 10:24 am
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OSS Wed 2/1/12

Well DUH ! Out of School Suspension is exactly What the Kid WANTS ! Any Student would Jump for Joy to know that they did NOT have to attend School for 30 days.

What are they thinking ? Kid gets High or Drunk so Management gives them more time away from School
Whats Up with That ?

Obviously the Parents do NOT care or the Parents are not
there ? So Why would a Student be Upset with Out of School
Suspension ? It's a Mystery to Me ?

SPW

beaverlooper
2254
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beaverlooper 02/01/12 - 02:01 pm
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Brian W. What are you going

Brian W. What are you going to do if you catch your kid drunk ? You said yourself it is worse than marijuana.

BrianW
56
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BrianW 02/01/12 - 02:50 pm
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beaverlooper

Excelent observation. Same thing. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

msjinxie
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msjinxie 02/02/12 - 08:33 am
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Mj use

I use for pain, am a productive adult, and seem to have succeeded in life. Kids WILL experiment, alcohol is the number one killer right now in the USA. How many folks can say, oh, how much alcohol has made their life better? None! As far as weed? Its Place is not at school, work, driving, .....if everyone would follow the law......keep it out of kids hands...Treat it like anything that will impair you. How about the Huge meth problem people? Start showing how many of these cook houses around here being busted, THAT will be refreshing! Anyone curious about our Alaska Laws on Mj, go here: www.420.com read up and educate yourselves....Not one of you seems to know. Knowledge is power! Drug test students period randomly and fix the problem.....stop complaining about it! Do It! Prosecute with the law because apparently the parents either dont know or do not care. Times have changed folks.

spwright
1376
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spwright 02/02/12 - 09:19 am
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Duh ! Thur 2/2/12

News Flash, The Police also read the Clarion DUH !
Just Keep on Braggin, about Smokin' Weed & The Man will be knockin' at your door soon. Hope Ya got a good lawyer.

SPW "Airborne"

soldotna
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soldotna 02/02/12 - 02:14 pm
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"The Police also read"

I don't think you can call that a fact.

I do know from growing up in on the Peninsula that it is a heck of a lot easier to get Pot then Booze.

I also know unless your speeding,not wearing a seat belt,have window tint,or hanging out in the mall parking lot that the Police could give a crap less about you. Well that's until you turn 21 then they will hang out across the streets from the bars and look for cars they can pull over later in the evening.

If you can't read between the lines, I'm basically saying if the police have to work at it don't be worried they won't.

spwright
1376
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spwright 02/02/12 - 04:08 pm
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DUH Again 2/2/12

Yep just Keep on Yapping & Braggin' bout Smokin' Weed in the local NewsPaper & see how long it takes for the Local
DEA Agents to come Knockin' on YOUR DOOR ! DUH !
Famous Last Words "That could NEVER happen to ME"
Open Mouth, Insert Foot
Hope Ya got a Good Attorney lined up & Bail $ saved ?

SPW in Sloooooowdotna

Icallbs
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Icallbs 02/02/12 - 04:23 pm
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SPWright your an idiot

Once again you show your stupidity. Just because you talk about it is not grounds for investigation or arrest. The police will do nothing, since the police can onyl come to the school and deal with situations if called upon unless in an emergency.

Icallbs
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Icallbs 02/02/12 - 04:25 pm
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I almost forgot to put in my

I almost forgot to put in my 2 cents here. This article is BS, and of course instead of doing a survey with all 3 schools (SOHI, Kenai, and Skyview) they go to SOHI and pick 2 or 3 kids for comment. The clarions reporting inside the schools has been BS for the last 4 years.

spwright
1376
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spwright 02/02/12 - 04:46 pm
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DUH Yet AGAIN

Yep once again, Just Keep Thinkin' This could Never Happen to Me as the DEA Agent is slapping Hand Cuffs on YOU.
Many a Jail House Lawyer such as yourself are sitting in their Jail Cell wondering How did this Happen to Me ?
Keep On Braggin.

SPW

Kevin43734
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Kevin43734 02/06/12 - 05:44 am
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It shouldn't be one or the other

This article seems to try and discern which is worse; alcohol, or weed. Both are mind altering and there should be a ZERO tolerance for both kids and adults in Alaska when it comes to underage drinking or marijuana. By zero tolerance I mean if you are caught in possession of any illegal substance it should be an automatic "do not pass go" go straight to jail, no bail, and a huge fine that would make anyone seriously reconsider trying to get away with it. Geee I don't know, like $20,000 if convicted for first time offense and 2 years in jail. I don't have my facts straight and couldn't tell you what the penalty is currently but it doesn't matter because it obviously is isn't enough. Harsh but I guarantee people would reconsider.

- Obviously that wouldn't work for a student and two years in jail would do more harm than good. How about repeating that year of high school. Oh and if they decide the hell with it and drop out then deny them any state or federal financial aid of any kind until they can produce a GED. Tired of hard work American's tax dollars going to waste on a bunch of drug using society sucking leeches.

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