Substance Abuse in Schools

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In a 2005 survey, 79% of Washoe County high school students reporting using alcohol at some time in their life...and 45% of students reported using marijuana.

Two years later, district officials are awaiting results for 2007. Results from the most recent "Youth Risk Behavior Survey," done back in March, won't be out for a few more months, but Washoe County officials say they had the highest participation rates ever for middle and high school.

To get an early look, we talked to a high school dropout today, to find out just how available drugs and alcohol are to students in Washoe County.

"In high school, drugs are just a natural part of a high schooler's life. They're everywhere and everyone is doing them," said 18-year-old dropout, Cassi Chambers.

Chambers dropped out of school early this year...but she attended five different public high schools in Reno before she hit the streets. She says alcohol and marijuana are the most commonly used drugs among her peers...and some of them don't even try to hide it.

"Almost every high school has an area where kids go smoke. Hug High: right by Sonic, by that little circular thing, is where kids go smoke. At Sparks High: right across the street on the corner, that's where kids go and smoke," said Chambers.

So what is leading to all this abuse among Chambers' peers? We asked Lisa Zug of Join Together Northern Nevada.

"The short answer is availability. I recently got a record of alcohol license holders in Reno alone. There were 780 alcohol licenses held in Reno. 780. You add mom and dad's liquor cabinet and that's 781," said Zug.

She says parental influence on kids is a major factor.

"The adults are open about how much they drink or smoke. This environment where 24 hour entertainment is not only available, but encouraged."

Chambers says with or without outside availability, getting a hold of alcohol and drugs is easy...even on campus.

"I don't care what you have to do, put metal detectors up in the school, search kids when they come in. That is the only way to keep drugs out of the school district."

Join Together Northern Nevada is working on bringing the presence of drugs and alcohol down in our schools, first by urging parents to create an open dialogue with their kids...because the safer they feel, the more they share.