Survey: Drug & Alcohol Use Among Young People

March 1, 2013 | 15 Comments

A recent survey provided data to suggest that young people in Bermuda may be experimenting with alcohol and drugs at an earlier age than previously suspected, in some cases as low as 9 years old, Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley said today [Mar 1] in the House of Assembly.

The Minister was delivering a summary of the results of a “Survey of Students on Knowledge and Attitudes of Drugs and Health 2012” which was recently completed by the Department of National Drug Control.

A total of 1,106 students in Primary 5, Primary 6 and Middle 1 of ages 9 to 11, participated in the survey representing 23 public, 2 private, and 5 home schools. Approximately half were male and half were female.

The percentage by year grade and age was split almost equally at approximately 33% each. 57.4% of the students indicated they considered themselves as Black, and 30.2% considered themselves to be of mixed race.

Minister Dunkley said, “In terms of lifetime use, 62.3% survey respondents said they have at least used one of the surveyed substances in their lifetime.

“Of these, 52.3% reported using energy drinks, 25.2 % alcohol, 15.3% inhalants, 3.4 % cigarettes, and 0.5% other drugs. Prevalence of use of most substances increases as students advance to higher grades. Note, that of all the students surveyed, one-third have tried a substance in their lifetime.”

Minister Dunkley’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, the use of illicit drugs in Bermuda is a problem that cannot be ignored. It is important that our efforts are focused toward preventing our young people from developing drug using habits. Today, I would like to present to Honourable Members with a summary of the results of a “Survey of Students on Knowledge and Attitudes of Drugs and Health 2012” which, was recently completed by the Department of National Drug Control as part of the Bermuda National Drug Information Network. The survey, which is the first of its kind in Bermuda, was developed in partnership with the Department of Education.

Mr. Speaker, the National School Survey of 2011 (of Middle and Senior School students on Alcohol, Tobacco, Other Drugs, and Health), provided data to suggest that young people in Bermuda may be experimenting with alcohol and drugs at an earlier age than previously suspected, in some cases as low as 9 years old.

Mr. Speaker, given the results of that study, the 2012 survey was specifically designed to determine prevalence and frequency of drug use; assess knowledge and awareness of drugs; assess reasons for drug use; determine the level of access to drugs; and to assess young persons’ perceptions of use.

A total of 1, 106 students in Primary 5, Primary 6 and Middle 1 of ages 9 to 11, participated in the survey representing 23 public, 2 private, and 5 home schools. The findings represented in this report Mr. Speaker, gives a better understanding of how to improve drug abuse prevention and intervention programmes, understand the drug and health perceptions and beliefs in need of attention in the community, monitor progress toward national health goals, and to encourage healthy drug-free lifestyles amongst Bermuda’s youth.

Of the students who responded to the survey approximately half were male and half were female. The percentage by year grade and age was split almost equally at approximately 33% each. When it came to race, 57.4% of the students indicated they considered themselves as Black, and 30.2% considered themselves to be of mixed race.

Mr. Speaker, our students overwhelmingly reported that they obtained majority of the information related to the dangers of drugs mostly from parents/guardians and family members; or teachers/counselors; and sometimes from the television. Indeed, even though it doesn’t always seem like it, our children are listening to their elders. Students were asked various questions of what they would do in situations involving drugs. Results revealed that 93.3 % of positive responses were directed toward the statement “if someone gives me drugs I would tell my teacher or parents” and 89.7% for the statement “if a friend gives me drugs I would tell my teacher or parents.” As anticipated, the lowest responses were reported for the statements “you have to use drugs lots of times before you get addicted/hooked on them” and the statement “if someone gives me drugs I would take them.”

Mr. Speaker, the survey reveals that there were no apparent differences in the reasons for drug use among grade levels or between the sexes, with most students responding positively to the statements “people use drugs because their friends use drugs” at 38.2% and “people use drugs because their parents use drugs” at 23.7%, while a smaller proportion (1.3%) of students felt the “using drugs make you look cool.”

Now, in terms of lifetime use, 62.3% survey respondents said they have at least used one of the surveyed substances in their lifetime. Of these, 52.3% reported using energy drinks, 25.2 % alcohol, 15.3% inhalants, 3.4 % cigarettes, and 0.5% other drugs. Prevalence of use of most substances increases as students advance to higher grades. Note, that of all the students surveyed, one-third have tried a substance in their lifetime.

Mr. Speaker, inhalants seemed to be the easiest drug to access as indicated by 46.5% of the survey respondents, followed by alcohol at 31.0% of respondents, however a great proportion of students did not know how easy it is to obtain any of the substances surveyed. Students who felt that inhalants were the easiest to obtain were more likely to be in MI, while more of the students who felt that alcohol was the easiest drug to access were in P6.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to perceptions of health risk associated with Alcohol, Tobacco, other Drugs (ATOD), (*energy drinks excluded) overall, most students believed that all four risk behaviours of inhaling common household products, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana are harmful. Mr. Speaker, the perception of the legality of substances by students’ shows most students are of the correct view that wine, beer, cigarettes, and rum are legal for adults only, while a small minority indicated that marijuana and cocaine are legal for adults. Almost one-fifth or one-quarter of the survey respondents did not know the legality of the substances under consideration.

Mr. Speaker, I have gone over some of the highlights of results the survey has produced and I must say I find the report very informative and helpful in terms of finding solutions for prevention and intervention. It is concerning to see the high rate of energy drink consumption amongst our students as studies are showing, young people should not consume energy drinks because of the high caffeine content, and possibly even alcohol, which leads to heart palpitations and, worst case scenario, even death. The DNDC and the Ministry of Education will continue their public education campaign for both young people and parents alike on the dangers associated with the consumption of energy drinks by minors.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the survey brought to my attention a concerning point and that is the apparent lack of knowledge regarding the presence of alcohol in a selection of beverages. Three of the most popular alcoholic beverages in Bermuda are Twisted Tea, Breezers, Smirnoff Ice, however they were selected by more than half of students as drinks that did not have alcohol. This shows that collectively, we need to do more in alcohol awareness education in order for our children to develop healthy attitudes toward alcohol as they grow and eventually reach the age of legality.

Mr. Speaker, The survey results demonstrated the need for more education with students at an earlier age than traditionally provided.

This report in its entirety will be released to the public shortly. While there are some areas of concern, I am encouraged that our children, for the most part, have not reported to be regularly using harmful, illegal substances. With the continued guidance of parents, family, teachers and public awareness campaigns, I am confident that our students can be lead on a path that continues them away from harmful alcohol and drug abuse habits.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (15)

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  1. too quick... says:

    I hate to say it but... if you tell a 9 year old they MUST be honest when answering this survey, and then you say have you ever drank alcohol... and they remember that time when they had a sip of daddy's beer or mummy's glass of wine. And then when they ask what an inhalant is and you tell them its a drug that comes in the same form as their asthma medication, then they are going to say yes.

    These surveys are so inaccurate. The children are too young to understand the questions. It distresses me that no one in the research department are considering these inaccuracies when they give the results to the Minister to read publicly. We mustn't rely on one survey - any researcher should know that.

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    • Tommy Chong says:

      If someones giving their 9 year old a sip of wine or beer they are not being a good parent. Giving a sip of alcohol to a 9 year old is condoning the underage use of alcohol.

      I do agree that the explanation of drugs in school here is not thorough. My children when 9 were taught in school that drugs are something you take that is bad for you & medicine was something that you take when your sick. The teacher was upset when one of my children said “but medicine is a drug”. The teacher was mad that they were contradicted with the truth. The teacher got more crossed when my child raised their hand a second time to the teacher who kept saying the word weed & asked, “do you mean cannabis?”

      My children have been taught at an age earlier than 9 about drugs & they understood & still do. We have gone as far as to show images of addicts to them at their rock bottom stage so they can see the horrible effects. This has scared them out of any peer pressure that comes their way.

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      • Spilt milk says:

        In reply to your first part of your statement I don't think giving a sip of watered down spirits is a bad thing as long as its not something being done on a regular basis. I e more than 1 time a month. In places like France they give watered down wine to children in some families. When I was in France I don't remember seeing Heavy drinking like what I saw when I lived in England. In Europe beer is considered food really because it was one of the only safe things to drink some time ago when they didn't understand that boiled water kills parasites..

        And to the other stuff in your statement I think it's sad that the teacher would be upset at what your child said which is true. Hat off to you for teaching your children to have an understanding of what they see and hear. I'm honestly taken back by that story n impressed I hope my child will stand up when they hear and see things that conflict with there understanding of a subject.

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    • Please!! says:

      I get your point but sum it up... Too much to read

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  2. who cares says:

    What do you expect?

    There is nothing to do in bermuda.

    Can't ride a razor scooter through the city...

    Southampton mini-put is run down/boring...(mind you, the frogs make for an interesting obstacle)

    Can't ride a goped scooter anywhere; don't even try drinking and driving one...

    No child-friendly places in bermuda. Remember sparkies...

    I'm sure others can add to the list.

    We need more child-friendly events! catering to each age bracket, up to 18.

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    • monet says:

      Read a book. Study and do your homework. Or are you talking about after these have been done to a satisfactory standard? School and learning is what they need to focus on. Not riding a goped drunk...

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      • Tommy Chong says:

        What a square comment! I can just picture how your demeanor is.

        It's important for kids to study & read but they shouldn't be pushed to do it every waking hour. Your comment about riding a goped drunk has such a prejudice connotation. I bet you think all the skater kids that go around Bermuda trying to find some nice verts because there are no skate parks here are all on drugs.

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    • Tommy Chong says:

      The monotony in Bermuda for children will never be solved till some business group says Bermuda is too boring for IB workers children. Sad thing is this will never happen since IB workers can afford to send their children somewhere fun on their breaks to subside the boredom.

      Their will be casinos & luxury hotels built here through government initiative long before any type of child amusement is decided to be built.

      Government keeps talking about needing some major construction plans for the future. How about some sort of amusement park? Sadly there are too many nay sayers here that think its more of a thrill to get fall down drunk then go on a water slide or roller coaster.

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      • Zombie Apocalypse says:

        Bermuda is not "boring" for kids. My children hardly hardly get any time to themselves, they're so busy with activities. Of course, it helps if you have parents who give a rat's ass.

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      • Warwick says:

        Amusement park? For what?
        Who are you kidding? There is SO much to do in Bermuda for kids!

        The schools, BYSP, BRFU, football clubs, swim clubs, cricket clubs all offer sports which teach team building and give kids badly-needed exercise.
        Not athletic? How about Brownies, Cub Scouts, Sea Cadets, Boys Brigade, Young Life? They offer a safe place for kids to meet and have fun.
        Water park? Who needs them?! Have you seen our AWESOME beaches??!!
        Want something thrilling? Try mountain biking through Spittal Pond or other parks...FUN!! Even WALKING through them is interesting. Exploring the forts, railway trails, Dockyard... take a ferry somewhere for no reason, so many ideas.

        I grew up here. With a push bike and a fishing line I could keep myself entertained all summer.

        All of these things are free or much cheaper than an amusement park.

        Parents just need to be creative and spend time with their children, not rely on Mickey Mouse or Dora the Explorer to raise them.

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        • Tom-e says:

          Thank you for your comment it is spot on! I agree with you 100%

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        • Smh says:

          I am 20. I was a part of many clubs like dancing, swimming, track and field, netball and everything. Those are activities that were a part of my every day schedule. But I was able to grow up with places like Belly Busters, that Bumper car place across from Heron Bay Market Place. Those places were what we call FUN! And Brownies and Boy Scouts? You eventually grow out of all of that. And why are you so against a water park? When they built the one down Sonesta we teens loved it. I was probably about 11 or 12 but we had a blast going there during summer break.

          And these kids are taken to the forts, railways and ferry rides plenty of times thanks to class field trips, camps and after-school care. It gets boring if you have been going there at least 3 times a year, every single year since preschool. I actually feel very sorry for the kids younger than me because Bermuda starts becoming very boring once you become a teenager. And don't say parents need to do more with their kids because in my case parents did plenty with me. But every teenager goes through the phase of wanting to go everywhere with their friends. But that's no fun if there is nowhere fun to go.

          My cousins are away living US and when they grew up my aunt use to buy them annual passes to Six Flags. Here kids were never bored because that is where they went everyday after school! I don't see why having a mini waterpark/amusement park would be a problem. Or even a big arcade space would be fun.

          Another big problem is older people complaining about the young ones in their neighbourhood. I remember when I was younger we use to race down the hills on our bikes and play football or cricket in the street, hang from trees like monkeys but there was always that neighbour that complained about us and if we did not stop when they asked they called the police.

          And P.S Don't hate on Dora! That's my girl. Vamonos!

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  3. Tommy Chong says:

    “15.3% inhalants” I hope the kids were just messing around with the survey & this isn't for real. Inhalants are just as dangerous as crack or heroine.

    These kids need to be better educated about drugs. Teachers should bring in volunteer ex addicts to tell their story to kids & show them how drugs have affected their teeth & features. No kid wants their teeth to fall out or their skin to turn pasty & patchy due to drugs. This would be a good deterrent.

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  4. Dantes Inferno says:

    Separating alcohol from drugs is a problem.

    Start there maybe?

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    • YADON says:

      Alcohol is a drug , the worse one there is. Just look at the stats. it's cannabis that needs to be seperated from the drugs.

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