Kirksville, Missouri, a town with a population of roughly 17,000 people has a middle school, William Matthew Middle School, enrolling roughly 400 students. Teens experimenting with drugs has been a growing issue nation-wide and William Matthew Middle School is no exception. Programs such as D.A.R.E. help students become educated on the risks associated with drug use such as tobacco, alcohol, and other substances.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Kirksville’s 2014 survey showed continued declines in alcohol use by all grades. Nine percent of 8th graders, 23.5 percent of 10th graders, and 37.4 percent of 12th graders reported past-month use of alcohol, which was significantly lower than the survey posted in 2009, when rates were 14.9 percent, 30.4 percent, and 43.5 percent, in comparison. There was also a significant five-year drop in binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row in the previous 2 weeks) by seniors: 19.4 percent reported binge drinking in 2014, whereas 31.5 percent had reported the practice at its peak in 1998.
According to the CDC (Centers of Disease Control), cigarette smoking by youth continues to drop and is currently at its lowest rate in the survey’s history. Only 1.4 percent of 8th graders reported smoking every day in 2014, compared to 2.7 percent in 2009; 3.2 percent of 10th graders reported smoking daily, compared to 4.4 percent in 2013 and 6.3 percent in 2009; and 6.7 percent of high school seniors reported smoking daily in 2014, down from 8.5 percent in 2013 and 11.2 percent in 2009. In 1997, at its peak, nearly a quarter of seniors were daily smokers.
Marijuana use remained stable in 2014, even though the percentage of youth perceiving the drug as harmful went down. Youth who used marijuana within the last month remained steady among 8th graders at 6.5 percent, among 10th graders at 16.6 percent, and among 12th graders at 21.2 percent. Close to 6 percent of seniors report daily use of marijuana (similar to 2013), and 81 percent of them said the drug is easy to get. Among 8th graders, there was a drop in perceived availability in 2014, with 36.9 percent saying it is easy to get marijuana, compared to 39.1 percent in 2013.
So if current rates of drug use in teens is dropping, what is the problem? Preferred Family Healthcare located in Kirksville is a substance abuse rehabilitation center that has two locations for adults and adolescents. Their program follows a weekly step by step phase work that is designed to pull their clients away from their substance and replace it with coping skills to use in the outside world. After speaking to the family therapist at Preferred Family Healthcare, she agreed that it is a growing problem that “communities do not want to talk about.” The adolescent unit at Preferred houses roughly 20 kids at a time and the kids stay anywhere from 40-60 days usually. The relapse rate after the program at Preferred is currently around 90 percent, and statistics show that most addicts go through rehab around 7-9 times before they find a working way to fight and beat their addiction.
The Kirksville School District offers numerous education classes for students to help teach them about the effects of drug use. One of the classes offered is the D.A.R.E. Program. “D.A.R.E. stands for Drug Abuse Resistance and Education. It is a program that is implemented into the 5th grade at Ray Miller Elementary,” The course teaches the youth about the effects that alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs on their bodies. The classes last for 10 weeks and the students write essays and participate in a special graduation. There are other aspects that this program addresses such as the peer pressure that youth faces to participate in drug use.
Programs can be set up through the school, but the outside family factors in as well. If students are around tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs while at school, they are more susceptible to try these themselves. Since middle school aged children are particularly susceptible to peer pressure, many decide to experiment with alcohol and drugs after seeing and hearing that other kids are doing it.
Parents are usually the last to know that their middle school aged child has a substance abuse problem. When children move from elementary school to middle school, many parents decide that it’s time to step back and become less involved in their child’s life. They are unaware of the warning signs of substance abuse and often find out the truth only after their child has developed a serious problem.
Kirksville schools have taken steps to ensure that their students are drug free as well. If a student participates in any outside extracurricular activity, or uses their vehicle to park on the school’s parking lots, they are agreeing to be randomly drug tested throughout the school year. If a student is caught using drugs while involved in an extracurricular activity, they are placed on suspension for a period of time from the activity. Increasing the rules and consequences for drug use prevents students from engaging in drug use.
For more information please check out the following links
Drug Facts. (2013, May 1). Retrieved September 2, 2015, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/high_school_and_youth_trends_december_2014.pdf
Kirksville, Missouri. (2012, September 1). Retrieved September 1, 2015, from http://www.city-data.com/city/Kirksville-Missouri.html
Kirksville works to educate students about drug abuse - D.A.R.E. America. (2014, October 2). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www.dare.org/kirksville-works-to-educate-students-about-drug-abuse/
Preferred Family Healthcare | Welcome to PFH. (n.d.). Retrieved September 1, 2015, from http://www.pfh.org/