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Survey reports high levels of hazardous drinking in students

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Based on the 2015 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey(OSDUHS) by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), alcohol is still the drug preferred by students in Ontario from grades 7 to 12, with around 29% of students in the 12th grade participating in hazardous drinking. Around more than 25% of high school students are actually allowed to drink at home.

The survey involved 10,426 students across Ontario and is known to be Canada's longest systematic study of the use of drugs among youth, and is also thought to be one of the longest running surveys in the world.

CAMH researchers remain concerned over the fact that students are still consuming alcohol and engaging in hazardous drinking behavior, even if the consumption of alcohol by these teens has decreased from 66% in 1999 to 46% this year. Around 20% of high school students had reported hazardous drinking behavior, which may become grounds for future physical, psychological or social problems.

Around 18% of 168,100 say that they engaged in binge drinking, which means having 5 or more drinks in one occasion, at least once in the month before the survey was done. Around 65% of students also think that alcohol is very easy to acquire, indicating that it is the most readily available drug.

Dr. Robert Mann, senior scientist at CAMH and co-lead investigator of the OSDUHS, says that the rates of student drinking has declined over the past years, but are still very high and have leveled off recently.
Binge drinking is dangerous, and we are concerned to see nearly 20% of high schoolers report blacking out on at least one occasion in the last year, he adds.

Alcohol and Peers

In a new part of the survey this year, the students were asked if their parents also allowed them to drink inside their homes. Around 27% of the respondents, both males and females, said that they were actually allowed to drink in their houses with their friends.

It suggests some parents might think it's safer to supervise kids while they drink. In fact, other research shows that students who are allowed to drink at home are more likely to drink excessively, says Dr. Mann.

Aside from alcohol, cannabis is also one of the drugs highly used in the previous year. In a total of 203,900 respondents, around 20% reported to have used cannabis in the past year, and this rate was the same between males and females. The usage of this drug was seen to increase as their students' grade levels became higher, with around 37% of grade 12 students saying they used cannabis last year.

Because of the increase in the number of electronic smoking devices, the survey also asked the students if they used e-cigarettes, called ˜vaping' to intake cannabis. From 35,300 students, around 5% stated that they vaped cannabis in the past year.

The survey also revealed that there was a number of regional differences in drug use for the past year. For example, students in Northern Ontario use alcohol, tobacco cigarettes, and report binge drinking (52%, 12%, and 22%, respectively) at rates higher than the provincial average.