Lake Stevens Journal - Your hometown newspaper since 1960


By Pam Stevens
Managing Editor 

The depths of drug use – the good news


May 9, 2011

It reads like an oxymoron—“The depths of drug use —the good news” however, it is true that here in Lake Stevens our students seem to be well informed about what using drugs can and will do to them and their futures.

Within the walls of Cavelero Mid High School they have only seen a small percentage of tobacco and marijuana use. Harder drugs aren’t tolerated and the students have gotten the message.

“We haven’t seen it and we’re pretty hard on them,” Lake Stevens Police Officer Jim Barnes said. Barnes is the school’s resource officer as well. “I know that has changed. The new administration has really cleaned things up.”

At Lake Stevens High School, Intervention Specialist Steve Pitkin spends his day building relationships with students and helping them understand the effects of drug use. Pitkin received national recognition for his work with students in the area of substance abuse prevention when he was named “Teacher of the Year” last October by the Sundt Memorial Foundation.

The Foundation’s mission is to influence the hearts and minds of kids by inspiring them to choose a natural high instead of turning to drugs.

Lake Stevens High School has done an excellent job ensuring that students know what can happen if they are caught using drugs.

Lake Stevens scored 10 points higher than the states average in terms of students being aware and getting in trouble at school.

“The school district has consistently enforced substance abuse policies, we’ve done an exceptional job keeping kids aware,” Pitkin said. “There is also help at the schools and we have more access to help. I’ve been around here for a lot of years so the students know me.”

Pitkin explained that in the 10th grade, 85 percent of the students say they know that the school punishes students who use drugs. He also said that it is eight points higher in terms of students knowing that there is someone available to help.

“What I’m seeing is that there are more students abstaining from everything but there are some using more heavily,” Pitkin said. “In High School the level of methamphetamine use is only five to six percent at the highest. At the same time juniors and seniors are using inhalants twice as often. Most kids are not using. Drug use is not prevalent behavior.”

Every other year the State Department of Health along with the Liquor Control Board and OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) performs a Healthy Youth Survey throughout high schools in the state.

The statistics that came out of the 2010 survey are promising to school staff and parents.

The sample is approximately 30,000 students statewide. In Lake Stevens, 402 seniors participated in the study as well as 505 sophomores.

It is interesting to note that heroin use was not even mentioned in the 2008 Healthy Youth Survey. However, with its resurgence the question of whether or not they have ever used heroin was on the 2010 survey.

Ninety-five point five (95.5%) percent of the students surveyed said they had never used heroin.

When it comes to methamphetamines only 5.5 percent of the kids said they had tried them and only seven percent of students have tried cocaine.

Students were also asked if they had ever used a painkiller like Vicodin, OxyContin or Percocet to get high. Eighty-nine point five (89.5%) percent said they had not.

The survey also showed that tobacco use was down from the 2008 survey. An overwhelming 79 percent of students have never smoked a cigarette and only 5.5 percent smoked in the last one to two days.

Marijuana and alcohol use was higher with 78.3 percent (marijuana) and 56.9 percent (alcohol) of students saying they had never tried them.

While these numbers are just a small portion of the survey, they are the actual results from Lake Stevens High School.

“The results do show that substance abuse at school is lower than the state,” Pitkin explained.

In a majority of cases, genetics is a marker when it comes to substance abuse of any kind.

“Drug addiction is by and large a genetic issue,” Pitkin said. “Twenty-five percent of the people have a genetic predisposition to addiction and 10 percent of those end up addicted.”

Other factors can include environmental, financial and emotional situations as well as neglect and abandonment issues.

Ensuring that students are well educated on the effects of drug abuse and that they know they have a safe place to turn as well as continuing with a no tolerance policy remains a top priority at our local schools.

“I’ve been around here for a lot of years so the students know me and they have more access to help,” Pitkin said. “I see over a hundred students a year. They know that we can be trusted because they have heard it’s safe and so they choose to come in.”

While some kids like Shea, from pat one of this series, continue to fight the depths of drug use, it is encouraging to note that most of our kids aren’t falling into its grasp.

Shea’s family continues to pray for her to overcome her addiction. She will be moved from rehab this week into a “sober house” where she can continue with her recovery and hopefully her education as well.

Still other families consistently pray that their children will abstain from the evils of drug use altogether.

An Attitude Tracking Survey conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America in 1998 found drug use significantly lower among kids who’ve learned a great deal about drugs at home.

Talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol. Parents truly are the anti-drug.


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