Nearly 40 central Kenai Peninsula sixth-graders who completed a recent student survey said they have already experimented with sniffing inhalants.
That was one of the surprises revealed by the Community Action Coalition this week during its first community meeting to discuss findings of the survey of sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders.
The meeting focused on responses received from 297 sixth-grade pupils who participated in the Prevention Needs Assessment survey conducted Feb. 22.
The sixth grade showed the largest percentage of participation. Sixth-grade enrollment in the central peninsula is 424.
Project director Marilynn Jackson said future community meetings will contain information on the other grades surveyed.
Overall, 40 percent of the students participated in the survey, Jackson said. Sixth-grade participation was 70 percent.
Of those sixth-graders, 13.2 percent said they had used inhalants to get high during their lifetime, and 6.2 percent said they had used inhalants in the 30 days prior to day of the survey.
Survey results reported by process consultant Jim Clark at Monday’s meeting also showed 5.2 percent of sixth-graders had participated in binge drinking.
Clark said that was defined as having had five or more drinks at one time or having gotten drunk in the 30 days prior to the survey.
“One out of 20 sixth-graders is binge drinking,” Clark said.
Also in the 30 days prior, 6.5 percent of sixth-graders said they consumed alcohol and 1.4 percent said they used sedatives. There was no reported use of methamphetamines by sixth-graders.
Clark said results of the survey also showed the number of students using inhalants dropped off as the students got older and began switching to other stimulants.
The good news revealed through the survey, Clark said, is that 67.1 percent of sixth-graders reported prosocial involvement, such as participating in Boy Scouts, 4-H and similar organized activities.
He said 63.2 percent reported having an opportunity for prosocial involvement and 61.4 percent reported having a “belief in the moral order,” or that cheating and dishonesty are bad.
“At least three out of five kids say their prosocial involvement is good,” Clark said.
He said the Prevention Needs Assessment netted “mountains of data, and today we are just talking about one small slice.”
The survey looked at what were termed protective factors and risk factors.
Prosocial involvement, family attachment and religion were among the protective factors and perceived availability of drugs, family conflict, academic failure and family history of antisocial behavior were some of the risk factors.
“The highest risk factor was ‘intent to do drugs,’” Clark said.
He said 60.5 percent of sixth-graders said they intended to use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, and 52.1 percent had a diminished perception of the risks associated with drug use.
“They underestimate the risks of using drugs,” Clark said.
CAC now wants to use the data to create answers, but Clark said people should “think marathon, not sprint.
“It’s going to be a long term,” he said.
Schools that participated in the survey include Kenai Central, Nikiski, Skyview and Soldotna high, Kenai and Soldotna middle and Soldotna, Sterling, Tustumena, Redoubt, Kalifornsky Beach and Nikiski-North Star elementary schools.
The survey also was conducted at the Kenai Peninsula Youth Facility School, Aurora Borealis Charter School, Kenai Alternative School and Connections for home-schooled children.
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