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Default 06-21-2007, 01:41 PM

Drug use is down among Taylor County's youth, according to the 2006 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention survey.

Every two years, the KIP survey is given to students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 unless a school receives a signed note from a parent requesting their child not participate. The survey asks students about drug, alcohol and tobacco usage within the 30 days prior to taking the survey.

At Taylor County Schools, 742 students took the fall 2006 survey, while 299 Campbellsville Independent students took the survey.

The results show that, for the most part, usage is down in every category.

"I think it is due to parental education and community awareness," said Karen Hayes, Campbellsville/Taylor County Anti-Drug Coalition project director.

Hayes said the Coalition has tried to spread its anti-drug message as far as it can, including on-screen advertisements before movies at Green River Cinema 6 and print ads on the back of Kroger receipts.

"We're trying to strategically place information where more and more parents and more people can see it."

A concern continues to be abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

According to the 2006 survey, prescription drug abuse is down for every grade surveyed except eighth grade at Taylor County Middle School, where students report a jump from 2.5 percent in 2004 to 8 percent in 2006.

Over-the-counter drug abuse was down for every grade except Taylor County sixth graders, who report a .8 percent increase to 2 percent and Taylor County eighth graders who report a 1 percent jump to 7 percent.

"Over the last few years, abuse of over-the-counter cold and cough medicine has increased," Hayes said.

Several types of cold and cough medicines have a cough-suppressing ingredient called dextromethorphan or DXM, which can cause hallucinations when taken in large amounts. These medicines have gained popularity because, in addition to ease of availability, they don't leaving lingering odors on clothes or breath like marijuana or alcohol.

Because cold and cough medicine is legal to buy, Hayes said, some may believe that it is less dangerous.

That's not the case, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

The effects of DXM abuse include confusion, dizziness, double or blurred vision, slurred speech, impaired physical coordination, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, numbness of fingers and toes, and disorientation. Cough medications containing DXM can also contain other ingredients, such as acetaminophen, which can damage the liver if taken in large quantities.

To help raise awareness, Hayes said, the Anti-Drug Coalition has applied for a $50,000 drug prevention grant.

If the Coalition receives the grant, Hayes said, the money will be used to spread the word on the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Hayes said she also plans to encourage pharmacies to keep medicines containing DXM behind the counter.

Hayes said she'll know by July 1 whether the grant application is approved.

Meanwhile, Hayes still encourages parents and grandparents to keep prescription medication, as well as over-the-counter drugs such as Sudafed and cold and cough medicines containing DXM, away from their children. Keep track of pills to ensure none are missing.

"Just be aware and watch," Hayes said. "The kids are going to find whatever is available in their house."

As for the other results, the survey indicates that marijuana usage is down in all four grades surveyed at each school district. Already in the single digits, methamphetamine usage also dropped at all schools, with four schools dropping to zero.

For the most part, fewer students are smoking. At Campbellsville, grades six and eight saw small increases in the number of students who had smoked in the 30 days prior to completing the survey. At Taylor County, cigarette smoking increased only slightly with eighth graders.

Alcohol usage is up for all grade levels at Taylor County, with seniors seeing the biggest jump - 36.3 percent in 2004 to 47 percent in 2006. At Campbellsville schools, the senior class was the only group that reported an increase in alcohol consumption, moving from 47 percent to 50 percent. Campbellsville sophomores saw the biggest drop, moving from 36 percent to 22 percent.

In addition to asking about drug usage, the survey also addressed perceived parental attitudes. Hayes said the survey continues to show that students believe their parents have relaxed attitudes toward the use of alcohol.

"I think it's a lack of parental education," Hayes said.

Hayes said the Coalition will continue to sponsor seminars as it has in the past. However, if its grant application is approved, the Coalition will use some of the funds to entice more parents to attend the seminars by offering door prizes, transportation and meals.

Some parents are in denial that their children are abusing drugs, Hayes said. Others, she feels, don't attend the free seminars because they believe that by going, people will think their child is abusing drugs.

The end result of the survey, Hayes said, is to let the Coalition and school officials know where to focus their energies.

"This data tells us where we need to focus," Hayes said. "We believe that prescription and over-the-counter drugs are still the priority."
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