Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Substance Abuse---DeMolays---Impossible!

What do you really know about your DeMolay members?

This may not, at first, seem like a DeMolay blog post.  But, stick with it... it is VERY relevant to what you are doing in your DeMolay Chapter.

The annual Pennsylvania Youth Survey is conducted by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Since 1989 the Commonwealth has conducted a biennial survey of youth in the 6th, 8th 10th and 12 grades to gather information about their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors toward alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.

The survey is administered in individual school buildings and all questions are optional... youth are able to skip any questions they don't want to answer, or opt out of the survey entirely.  All answers are anonymous and confidential.The 2013 survey was administered to nearly 201,000 youth in over 400 school districts and counties. Statewide, this was a total of 69% of the 288,632 youth surveyed. 50.3% were female, and 49.7% were female.  75% were white, 6% African American, 3% Asian, 3% Hispanic and 11% multi-racial.  (There IS a skew in these numbers in that the inner-city schools in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have consistently and inexplicably chosen NOT to participate in the survey.)

Regardless of the lack of big-city representation, these numbers are very telling.  Here are some statistics to consider:

Exposure to and use of "gateway" drugs during their lifetime:

 6th Grade      13.3%
 8th Grade      35.1%
10th Grade     61.5%
12th Grade     74.2%

 6th Grade        2.4%
 8th Grade      10.2%
10th Grade     21.2%
12th Grade     35.2%

Smokeless Tobacco
 6th Grade       1.0%
 8th Grade       4.6%
10th Grade     10.9%
12th Grade     18.9%

 6th Grade        0.8%
 8th Grade        6.4%
10th Grade     25.8%
12th Grade     40.3%

 6th Grade        5.3%
 8th Grade        6.9%
10th Grade       6.4%
12th Grade       5.9%

Other             cocaine                  crack          methamphetamines
 6th Grade        0.2%                     0.2%                        0.1%
 8th Grade        0.6%                     0.4%                        0.4%
10th Grade       1.5%                     0.9%                        0.8%
12th Grade       3.1%                     1.3%                        1.2%

The participating school districts receive their District's numbers in comparison to these statewide numbers, a national "norm" and multi-year comparisons within their home county.

They are then guided through a method of evaluating the statistics to prioritize programs that target specific goals, to evaluate the success of programs already in place, to determine community standards for "acceptable" levels, identifying risk factors and understanding large shifts in the data from year to year.

The survey touches on other subjects beyond drug awareness and use.  It also includes questions on gambling, gang involvement, texting while driving, other anti-social behavior, bullying, internet safety, depression and suicide risk, family separation, trauma and grief, transitions and other stressful events, perception of parental and peer disapproval.  We will review some of those topics and numbers in the future.

Discussion points:

1.   What conclusions can you draw from these numbers about YOUR DeMolay Chapter?

2.   Does your Chapter have a substance abuse "presence?"

3.   Does it have a substance abuse "problem?"

4.   How many members in your Chapter are "likely" to be knowledgeable and experienced users of one or more controlled substances?

5.   Does this worry you?

6.   Are you prepared to deal with it, if you learn of it in relation to your Chapter members?

7.   Is PA DeMolay's Zero Tolerance policy practical, or unrealistic?

8.   Are there potential youth protection issues created by our initial response to these statistics?

9.   Does DeMolay's program of traditional values help our members respond to the pressures and opportunities presented to them by their peers?

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