drugusesurvey2002 4

It is critical that drug education programming be based on the most accurate data available. To obtain the most current statistical information on student drug use, the Technical Report of Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey 2002 5 was consulted. Following is a summary of findings from that report. To view the Highlights report, visit http://www.gov.ns.ca/hpp/addictionprevention.html.

As in the past, and as is the case in all jurisdictions in the western world, alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco were the substances adolescent students most commonly reported using in Nova Scotia in 2002. Among students in grades 7, 9, 10, and 12 in 2002, about half reported consuming alcohol, more than one-third reported using cannabis, and almost one-quarter reported cigarette use in the 12 months before the survey. About 12 percent of students reported using psilocybin or mescaline, and about 13 percent of students reported using amphetamines or methylphenidate (Ritalin) without a prescription.

No other substance was used by more than 6 percent of the student population in the year before the survey (i.e., LSD: 5.5; inhalants: 4.9; non-medical tranquillizers: 4.7; MDMA (Ecstasy): 4.4; cocaine or crack: 3.9; anabolic steroids: 2.7; PCP: 3.2; and heroin: 1.6.

Table 1. Any substance use in the year before the survey, as percentages of all students, 2002.

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It is important to bear in mind that, aside from inhalant use, the prevalence of substance use climbs steadily through the grades. For instance, 16 percent of students in grade 7 report using alcohol in the past year, but by grade 9, 52 percent report past-year use. With cannabis, 10 percent of grade 7 students report past-year cannabis use, while 38 percent report having used cannabis in grade 9. Clearly, many grade 7 students could be more accurately considered “not yet users” rather than “non-users.”

Table 2. Any use of substance in the year before the survey, as percentages of all students, 2002.

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There were small gender differences with the use of alcohol and cannabis according to the 2002 report, and these differences were age-related. Slightly more males than females used these substances in grades 7 and 12, while the reverse was the case in grades 9 and 10.

Table 3. Any use of substance in the year before the survey by gender, as percentages of all students, 2002.

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In terms of use that is clearly hazardous:

  • Frequent use of any substance is a sign that it is becoming more important in a person’s life. Among grade 7–12 Nova Scotia students, 30 percent of students reported drinking at least monthly in the past year; while 16 percent reported they had used cannabis more often than once a month.
  • Drinking to the point of drunkenness is potentially harmful in any context; 28 percent of students reported drinking to the point of drunkenness in 2002.
  • Any non-medical substance use (and some pharmaceutical drug use) in combination with driving poses serious risks. In 2002, 15 percent of Nova Scotia students with a driver’s licence drove a motor vehicle within an hour of having used alcohol, while 26 percent did so after cannabis use.
  • Among all students, 22.8 percent reported being a passenger in a car driven by an impaired driver.
  • Any non-medical substance use in combination with sexual activity poses serious risks. Of the 29 percent of adolescent students who had engaged in sexual intercourse, 35 percent had unplanned sexual intercourse while under the influence of a substance at least once during the course of the year.
  • In all cases, the prevalence of these hazardous behaviours increases through the grade levels. With the exception of “being in a car with a drinking driver,” males are more likely to engage in these behaviours than females.

Table 4. Hazardous use of substances as a percentage of students in Gr. 7, 9, 10 & 12, 2002.

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Hazardous use of substances increases the likelihood of adverse consequences or harms. As a result of the hazardous substance-use behaviours mentioned above, Nova Scotia students experienced a number of physical, social, legal, and academic harms. The proportions of males and females who reported having one or more drug-related harms were essentially the same. The proportions of students who reported one or more drug-related harms increased from grade 7 to 12, 2002.

Table 5. Alcohol and other drug-related harms, as percentages, 2002.

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Poulin, C. (2002). Nova Scotia student drug use 2002: Technical report. Halifax NS: Nova Scotia Department of Health and Dalhousie University. http://www.gov.ns.ca/hpp/addictionprevention.html

4. At the time of original publication of this supplement, the Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey 2002 provided the most current data on student substance use in the province. In 2007, a new survey was distributed and analyzed. Alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco remain the three most commonly used drugs by Nova Scotia students. While the 2007 results showed a significant decrease in tobacco use among the students, alcohol and cannabis use remained relatively stable. Alcohol continues to be the most commonly used drug among Nova Scotia students. Throughout the Question of Influence curriculum supplement, the Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey statistics have been updated to reflect the 2007 survey results. Where the 2002 data served to inform the development of the curriculum supplement, we retained the reference to the 2002 data. To view the complete 2007 report, please go to http://www.gov.ns.ca/hpp/addictionPrevention.html, or check out the summary in the What’s New section of the website druged.ednet.ns.ca.

5. The 2002 Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey was administered in Spring,2002 in 205 randomly selected classes throughout the province and features responses from 4,247 public school students from Grades 7, 9, 10, and 12.