Author(s): Poulin C, Elliott D
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: To characterize adolescent drug use in terms of a risk continuum and to explore the rationale for harm reduction as a potential approach for school-based drug prevention. DESIGN: Self-reported surveys, in 1991 and 1996, of adolescent students concerning their use of drugs, especially alcohol, tobacco and cannabis, and the harmful consequences of such use. SETTING: Nova Scotia. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 3452 (in 1991) and 3790 (in 1996) junior and high school students in randomly selected classes in the public school system. OUTCOME MEASURES: Prevalence of drug use and patterns of multiple drug use and of alcohol- and drug-related problems; independent risk factors for multiple drug use. The risk continuum for the response to alcohol problems was used as a policy framework. RESULTS: The prevalence of cigarette smoking and the use of hallucinogens and stimulants was markedly higher in 1996 than in 1991. Over one-fifth (21.9\%) of the students reported multiple drug use of alcohol and tobacco and cannabis in the 12 months before the 1996 survey. The 3 main subgroups--nonusers, users of alcohol only and users of multiple drugs--had distinct patterns of use, numbers of problems and risk factors. In all, 27.1\% of the students had experienced at least 1 alcohol-related problem and 6\% had experienced at least 1 drug-related problem in the 12 months before the 1996 survey. CONCLUSION: There is a need for integrated school- and community-based drug prevention programs, with goals, strategies and outcome measures capturing the full spectrum of patterns of use and levels of risk among subgroups of the adolescent student population.
This article was published in CMAJ
and referenced in Journal of Health Education Research & Development