Alcohol, drug use survey shocks some, others not surprised 

Community groups spurred on to find solutions that will help Whistler youth

Community groups are putting their heads together to find strategies to combat drug and alcohol use by school age youths in the community.

The effort has been spurred on by the results of a survey done last May and June by the Communities That Care project, an evidence-based program developed in the U.S. to help communities build positive, healthy futures for their youth.

The just-released survey of youths in Whistler has revealed that over two thirds of the youths from Grade 6 to Grade 12 have used alcohol in their lifetime.

Almost half reported drinking in the 30 days prior to the survey date and almost a quarter reported smoking dope in the same period.

The survey also found that 59 per cent of youths in Grade 11 had come to school drunk or high at least once in the previous year. Overall 24.8 per cent of surveyed students from Whistler had done the same thing.

"Of course there is a concern," said Christine Buttkus, manager of the survey project.

"We don’t want to wait until there is a tragedy."

Whistler Secondary principal Ken Davies is also concerned about the survey results and he hopes to work with the community to help find some solutions.

"Any time that you see a potential increase in the use of drugs and alcohol it is of concern to me especially in my jurisdiction as the principal of the high school because I think it has an impact on other factors," he said.

"It impacts kids’ ability to tend to their studies, it impacts on their ability to deal with issues in the world, and I think it behooves us to look carefully at that and not do things in a reactive fashion but in a proactive way to channel youths into making better decisions."

Youth at school are educated about the effects of drugs and alcohol and, Davies said, there is clear and open communication between the school and parents about this issue and others.

He was particularly concerned about the number of youths coming to school drunk or stoned.

"The important question surrounding this is why are these students feeling like they have to come to school and take that chance?" said Davies.

"There is, of course, a zero tolerance policy in the use of drugs and alcohol in the school which can and will result in suspension."

Davies believes the youth must also play a key role in finding solutions.


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