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Drug and alcohol use in SGF decreasing; district below usage averages

January 27, 2016

The Community Coalition for Family Wellness recently announced the results of the Prevention Needs Assessment, a survey that was given to South Glens Falls middle and high school students this past fall.

Based on the most recent results, overall substance use by teens in the district has decreased, most notably with alcohol and marijuana. South Glens Falls is also below county and national averages for most grade levels.

“We are encouraged by the most recent survey results,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Patton. “Our goal as a district is to ensure the well-being of the whole child. We know that substance abuse can lead to poor academic outcomes and difficulties in other areas of a child’s life.”

The survey is designed to measure substance use and the factors that contribute to these rates.  It was previously administered in SGF in 2011 and during the 2013-14 school year, which provided data to study and help identify trends among students.

Working in collaboration with the South Glens Falls School District, this data allows the community to address any concerns or issues appropriately, and also highlights what is working well.  The coalition contracts with Bach Harrison, to utilize the company’s research-based survey instrument, to administer the survey. The results are carefully analyzed and must pass validity checks to be included in the report. Invalid surveys are removed from the analysis.

Alcohol trendsThe chart to the right shows past month alcohol use for all grade levels who have taken the survey for every year it has been administered.  The red bars indicate averages for Saratoga County (2015) and the yellow bars are national averages (only available for grades 8, 10 and 12). Changes in percentages of more than 5 points are considered significant.

“It is promising to see alcohol use decrease over the past few years, and when asked about binge-drinking (consuming five drinks in one sitting), students report similar decreases, particularly in eleventh and twelfth grades,” said Jenn Wood, Community Coalition for Family Wellness Coordinator. “Consequences related to alcohol use such as poisonings, hangovers, and unwanted sex have also decreased significantly.”

Marijuana trendsSurvey results on marijuana use also show decreases in most grade levels, with an increase in tenth grade and a leveling off in twelfth grade. More students are indicating that they believe marijuana is safe, which can contribute to increased use.

“This is concerning as teen marijuana use can lead to academic and behavioral difficulties,” Wood said.

While the survey provides data on teen substance use, it also identifies factors that further explain how and why substance use happens. For example, teens are more likely to get alcohol from home or someone they know, rather than purchasing it at a store. Twelfth-grade students are more likely than seventh-grade students to believe that their parents accept alcohol use as a normal rite of passage, yet twelfth-graders have far higher rates of consequences related to alcohol use. Parents play an important role in establishing the norm that underage drinking is not acceptable, which is reflected in lower teen drinking rates.

One of the coalition’s strategies aimed at reducing teen alcohol and marijuana use has been the social norms campaign.  It is not unusual to overestimate how much or how often something is happening, and the same is true when considering the number of people using substances. The campaign aims to correct overestimation by providing factual information on how many teens are drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. The results can be surprising, especially when students learn that the majority are actually choosing NOT to use.  Check out some examples of our social norms campaign posters for more details.

All interested community members are invited to join the coalition’s efforts. More information can be found at


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