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Cause for concern at Hay River school
Survey finds increasing use of hard drugs among students

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Friday, March 5, 2010

HAY RIVER - According to a recent survey, students at Diamond Jenness Secondary School in Hay River are reporting the use of hard drugs specifically cocaine and ecstasy is on the rise among young people.

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Reiss Kruger: student/town councillor says results of survey on drug and alcohol use among Hay River high school students are surprisingly accurate. - NNSL file photo

In the January survey 7.9 per cent of senior high students those in Grades 10 to 12 reported using cocaine in the previous 30 days, compared to 0.6 per cent in a similar survey in 2008.

For junior high students in Grades 8 to 9, there was a small increase in reported cocaine use in the previous 30 days 1.4 per cent now, compared to one per cent in 2008.

As for ecstasy, 6.4 per cent of senior high survey respondents reported using the drug in the previous 30 days, compared to three per cent in 2008. Among junior high students, 1.4 per cent reported using ecstasy in the previous 30 days, compared to none in 2008.

"Obviously, it's a cause for concern," said Jill Taylor, who conducted the survey for the Hay River Drug and Alcohol Strategy.

However, she added, "There was nothing in the survey that shocked me."

Taylor said she didn't know what was causing the increase in hard drug use but speculated the drugs have become easier to access.

"It's being introduced to younger and younger groups," said Taylor.

The survey was completed by 210 students in Grades 8 to 12. The youngest respondent was 12 and the oldest 20.

Taylor, who is an inclusive schooling co-ordinator with the South Slave Divisional Education Council, said the results of the survey will help the Hay River Alcohol and Drug Strategy set directions.

"It really helps us to set goals for the next few years," she said.

Taylor said students seem to know a lot about the effects of alcohol and marijuana, but do not have as much knowledge about cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamines.

"That's where we need to target our efforts," she said.

In particular, students must be informed that ecstasy is a methamphetamine derivative, she said. "And it is extremely dangerous."

While there were troubling signals about hard drug use, there was a drop in marijuana use among senior high students from 42 per cent using it in the previous 30 days in 2008 to 30.5 per cent this year.

Junior high students reported a slight increase in marijuana use in the previous 30 days from 17.4 per cent in 2008 to 18.8 per cent in the most recent survey.

As for alcohol, the survey found the percentage of students drinking in the previous 30 days fell from 38 per cent to 22.1 per cent among junior high students, and from 56.7 per cent to 50 per cent among senior high students.

When asked if they have ever used a particular drug, 13 per cent of students reported they had used cocaine and 20 per cent used ecstasy.

Among senior high students, 77.3 per cent report having consumed alcohol at some time, 63 per cent used marijuana and 4.2 per cent used speed or methamphetamines.

Taylor believes the survey results are fairly accurate and students did not exaggerate their drug use. She pointed to the fact they did not report methamphetamine use as an indication they filled out the survey honestly.

"Meth is still not showing on the radar," she said.

Reiss Kruger, who is both a DJSS student and a Hay River town councillor, also accepts the survey results.

"They're surprisingly accurate," he said. "People have not been afraid to tell the truth."

Kruger doesn't believe too many students exaggerated.

"What are they achieving by lying on a survey their name is not on?" he said, noting it would not give any student bragging rights with friends.

Kruger said he is concerned about the findings of the survey, adding he was unaware nearly every drug is available in Hay River.

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