MOUNT VERNON — More than 2,000 students participated in the 2019 Knox County PRIDE (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality) survey. The survey included students in sixth through 12th grades in all five local school districts. The PRIDE survey is designed to identify strengths and areas of concerns. It is used to monitor the health and well-being of youth and school safety, evaluate the impact of prevention efforts, and determine the nature and extent of drug use by adolescents.
The survey, coordinated by the Knox Substance Abuse Action Team (KSAAT), has been conducted since 2015 in Knox County. The resulting data is used by several organizations and agencies to assist with the creation of strategic plans addressing substance abuse, mental health and teen-dating violence.
The good news from the survey is that most drug and alcohol use has decreased among area students. Over 80 percent of students report no illicit drug use in the past year. The frequency of use of alcohol among students dropped from 32.4 percent in 2015 to 24 percent in 2019. Tobacco use is down, too, 12.5 percent of students used tobacco products in the last month, as opposed to 20.8 percent in 2015. Marijuana use for students was 16.9 percent in 2015; 2019 numbers show marijuana use decreased to 12.4 percent.
Alternately, e-cigarette use increased from 5.5 percent in 2015 to 14.3 percent in 2019. E-cigarettes are also referred to as “vapes” (i.e. JUUL, Aspire, SMOK). Inhalant use has also increased from 2.3 percent in 2015 to 2.9 percent in 2019. Inhalants are any product that produces chemical vapors; the vapors can be inhaled to induce a mind-altering effect. Products such as glue, lighter fluid, nail polish remover, spray paint, hair spray, whipped cream canisters, and cleaning fluids are just a few examples (National Institute on Drug Abuse). The highest reported inhalant use is in eighth grade; 3.1 percent of students reported using in the past 30 days.
According to the survey, the average age students report they first use drugs or alcohol is about 12 years old. Those students who engage in drug and alcohol use do so most often at home or at a friend’s house on the weekends. Very little use is reported during school hours, indicating schools continue to be a protective environment for youth.
The PRIDE Survey also asked students if they have had suicidal thoughts. According to the survey, 9.5 percent (189 Knox County students) reported thinking about suicide “often” or “a lot”; up from 7 percent in 2017. Additionally, 4.1 percent (80 Knox County students) reported attempting suicide that resulted in an injury requiring treatment from a doctor or nurse.
PRIDE results indicate that almost half of all students have at least one favorable condition in their lives. Positive factors such as conversations with parents about the dangers of drugs, parents setting clear rules, participation in clubs/sports and having a trusted adult in a student’s life often decreases the frequency of youth substance use.
The PRIDE survey is a widely used survey across the U.S. that adolescents complete. It has been used since 1982 and has been found to be a valid and reliable instrument. The survey is two pages and contains 129 questions. For more information on national trends, visit the Pride Surveys website pridesurveys.com. For more information on local trends, visit Knox Substance Abuse Action Team’s website ksaat.org.