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 Student Drug and Alcohol Use Drops

Drug and alcohol use has dropped among students and school safety increased, according to the new California Healthy Kids Survey.

The survey evaluates how well schools across the state met students' needs for school safety, drug and alcohol prevention, mental health, and other factors that influence learning. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson released the survey today.

In San Diego County, the numbers look similar to the statewide averages, with the percentage of student using tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana dropping in 2014-15 compared with 2012-13.

Conducted every two years since 1985, the survey provides insights for educators and health professionals about how to improve services for students.

The California Department of Education and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) coordinated the report, which takes a random sample of seventh, ninth, and eleventh graders statewide.

 "This is the largest statewide survey in the nation and increases our understanding of how students feel about school and how they rank their school environment," Torlakson said. "The more we can meet the needs of the whole child, including their social and emotional health, the more we can help them succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college."

DHCS Director Jennifer Kent added, "The California Healthy Kids Survey helps behavioral health agencies, school-based health programs, and community organizations harness support for youth prevention programs and helps to justify the sustainability of these programs over time by showing real prevention successes to funders and stakeholders." 

The survey data also helps local school districts prepare their Local Control and Accountability Plans.

The survey results indicate decreases in alcohol and marijuana use since the previous survey in 2011–13, particularly among eleventh graders. For example, current use of alcohol, binge drinking, and marijuana use among eleventh graders decreased by four points. Lifetime marijuana use dropped by seven points. 

The results also show improvements in school safety. Seeing someone carrying a weapon on school property is down in all grades, ranging from four to eight points.

Participation in a physical fight decreased in all grades by four to five points, and indicators of physical victimization generally decreased by two to six points.

Many of the findings underscore the need for educators, prevention specialists, youth service providers, and health agencies to focus more attention on better meeting the needs of youth and helping them thrive.

For example, two indicators of depression risk showed little change since the last survey. Feelings of incapacitating, chronic sadness or hopelessness were reported by 26 percent of seventh graders and around one-third of ninth and eleventh graders. Survey results are available here.