Rise reported in teens’ use of alcohol, pot

A
study released last week by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America
showed an increase in teen drug use for the first time in a decade.

The
study said the number of students in grades 9-12 who had used alcohol
within the past month increased last year, with 39 percent – about 6.5
million teens – reporting such use. That's up from 35 percent, or about
5.8 million teens, in 2008.

For marijuana, 25 percent of teens reported that they had smoked marijuana in the past month, up from 19. Until last year, those measures for pot and alcohol use had been on
a steady decline since 1998, when use hovered at about 50 percent of
teens for alcohol and 27 percent for pot.

The study also
found use of the party drug Ecstasy on the rise. Six percent of teens
surveyed said they had used Ecstasy in the past month, compared with 4
percent in 2008.

"These
new data should put all parents on notice that they have to pay closer
attention to their kids' behavior – especially their social
interactions – and they must take action just as soon as they think
their child may be using drugs or drinking," said Steve Pasierb,
president of the partnership.

The timing of the study's
release was apt for the Sioux Falls area. The day before, parents of
high school students in the Brandon Valley School District got an
e-mail explaining that nine current or former students had been
arrested or detained after the raid of a suspected drug house Feb. 26.

The
numbers from the study don't surprise Brandon Police Chief David Kull,
who said teen drug use is a perennial problem. A school resource
officer with the Brandon Police Department leads the district's Drug
Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., program, but the problem is
difficult to contain.

"As
long as I've been in law enforcement, there's been drug and alcohol use
among teens," Kull said. "It fluctuates up and down, but it's always
there."

The e-mails the Brandon Valley School District
sent to residents were meant not only to inform them of the arrests,
but to encourage conversation, according to Superintendent David
Pappone.

"We're asking our parents to take some time out and talk to their kids," Pappone said.

Penny
Paclik, whose son is a senior at Brandon Valley, said she found out
about the raid via text message on Friday night but appreciated the
e-mail. The raid had become the talk of the town, she said, and not
everything she had heard was true.

"It made me feel informed," she said. "When that came out, it kind of squelched the rumors that had been flying."

In Brandon, tips from parents and students helped build the case for the raid.