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Bristol-Warren Students Among Biggest Users of Illegal Drugs

Data was compiled by the Department of Epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health for the RI State Epidemiology and Outcomes Workgroup for use by cities and towns to battle substance abuse.

Entrance to Mt. Hope High School. Credit: W. Rupp
Entrance to Mt. Hope High School. Credit: W. Rupp

Students in the Bristol-Warren schools are among the biggest users of illegal drugs in Rhode Island, according to a special report released for all of the state’s communities on Monday, Dec. 9.

The data was compiled by the Department of Epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health for the Rhode Island State Epidemiology and Outcomes Workgroup headed by Brown Professor Stephen Buka.

The workgroup is a cross-state agency formed because there is no single state agency that is responsible for drug-use prevention, reporting and treatment, said Buka.

According to the results, Mt. Hope High School students rank:

  • first in their illegal use of cocaine;
  • first in their use of prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, and Adderall;
  • first in being under the influence of drugs in school;
  • first in the use of inhalants, also known as “huffing”;
  • first in the use of marijuana in the past 30 days,
  • first in other illegal drug use.

Kickemuit Middle School students rank:

  • first in using prescription drugs,
  • first in using inhalants,
  • first in using other illegal drugs,
  • first in being under the influence of alcohol in school.

High school students also rank second in their use of marijuana and second in their use of alcohol at school. They also rank fourth in what is called a “moderate” use of alcohol

Middle school students rank fourth in two other categories: smoking and alcohol use, and seventh in marijuana use.

“We expected it to be high,” said Ann Marie Roy, the substance abuse coordinator for Warren and the co-coordinator for Bristol. “But not this high.” 

“I was shocked,” said Maria Ursini, the co-coordinator for Bristol with Roy. “We’ve known it’s been an issue. But this is crazy.”

The community needs to come together and work together on this problem, said Roy. 

“A partnership has to to attack this,” Ursini. “It needs to be fixed. I hope this is a wake-up call. We can no longer say it's not us."

The substance-use data came from RIDE’s SurveyWorks! 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 results, said Buka. Students are asked to go on online to complete the surveys at least once a year. Parents have been able to opt-in or opt-out their children in years past, said Buka. 

The students are asked straight-forward questions such as:

  • Have you tried prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription?
  • Have you tried marijuana?
  • Have you tried inhalants?
  • Have you tried cocaine?
  • Have you been under the influence of drugs at school during the past 12 months?
Click here to see the results for yourself at the RI Prevention Resource Center.
Emily Harmsen December 10, 2013 at 10:59 PM
I know for a fact that multiple peers of mine lied on these thinking it was a joke.
Ri Junk Removal December 11, 2013 at 09:20 AM
This is not cool we know about the problem why arnt we fixing it .first thing installing cameras in school halls hireing security guards doing student check at door before walking in bag check sniffing dogs once a week that will scare them do something before this gets out of hands . And a kid dies in school from over dose if you need help ask for it
Joe Bremen December 11, 2013 at 10:08 AM
Tend to agree with Emily' Peer pressure always makes these type of surveys suspect to say the least. R.I.; your talking about a prison enviroment, not an educational one. Some how I do not think we are ready for Orwell's 1984 solutions yet.
Stefanie Allen December 11, 2013 at 10:14 AM
I HAVE 2 CHILDREN THAT ATTEND MT HOPE AND I FIND THIS HEADLINE EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE!! How many students took this survey honestly? How many thought it would be "funny" to say yes to all of the questions when the truth was no? I'm not denying that drugs and alcohol are a problem with adolescence/young adults but a survey isn't the answer. If they are feeling peer pressured to use alcohol and drugs, what makes anyone think that aren't being peer pressured to answer yes to these questions for a good laugh? Bottom line, parents need to be more involved... Kids are too free these days.. Online, phones, etc...
Education PValue December 11, 2013 at 12:05 PM
The validity of self-report surveys and when parents should take caution. How can parents know when to read results from student self-report surveys with caution? First we should look at why the survey was administered in the first place. The 2012-13 and 2011-2012 results from the survey are intended to be used by cities and towns to battle substance abuse problems in their municipalities. What the survey ought to be doing is acting as an instrument that allows for measuring a probable association between the high self-reported use of illegal drugs and arrest and crime reports. In other words, these survey results should be analyzed alongside police report and crime data from the Bristol and Warren police departments to see if the high self-reported use of illegal drugs in these municipalities are symptomatic of the high use and incarceration of drug dealers and users in Bristol and Warren. My next thoughts are, is combating drug-use a priority of the Bristol and Warren Police departments? Have they been vigilant against drug-use within their municipalities? Are students getting illegal drugs from outside of their towns? If so, where? Also, how many of the parents of these students use illegal drugs? How available and casual are illegal drugs regarded in Bristol and Warren? Getting back to my original point, should parents read results from student self-report surveys with caution? Absolutely. Why? Because even education researchers do. It is an inherent flaw within the validity of the survey itself, and statisticians will be the first to point this out in the methodology section of their research project. However, it doesn't mean the results from the SurveyWorks! survey are worthless, and it doesn't mean that self-report surveys cannot be effective. I'm confident that some participants may have exaggerated their responses to make the results seem worse, and some may have under-reported the severity or frequency of their illegal drug use in order to minimize their problem. This notion is captured in statistics by the margin of error that acts a confidence interval allowing researchers to estimate ranges of probable values within an unknown population parameter. The important takeaway is to understand what the survey is intended to do, because that is what helps when navigating through survey results, and helps make sense of when to be cautioned as a parent. In this case, the survey was intended to compile some initial data for the cross-state agency responsible for drug-use prevention. So, the survey was not intended to be used as a widespread tool to educate parents about illegal drug use in their municipalities. Instead, parents can use the results to take note of perceptions of illegal drug use in Bristol and Warren, and creating a dialogue about the availability of illegal drugs and the culture of illegal drug use within their towns.
Danielle Thomas December 11, 2013 at 01:16 PM
RE: iSay survey I know a few kids that took part in this study. It started in middle school and tracked them to this year; just ended recently. One thing about the study: a lot of kids don't answer honestly because, if they answer "yes" to some of the questions, they have to answer a lot more following than if they answer "no". The incentive to participate throughout the years was gift cards for each time they paricipated. Clearly a lot of Bristol/Warren students answered honestly based on being first, but that doesn't mean all kids did at other schools. Ultimately, this study may not be accurate based on the students I know who admitted they didn't want to answer another page of questions, so they answered "no" in order to finish faster. I'm sure this is true throughout the region. Still sad there is such a high ratio.
Danielle Thomas December 11, 2013 at 01:34 PM
I know a few kids that took part in this study. It started in middle school and tracked them to this year; just ended recently. One thing about the study: a lot of kids don't answer honestly because, if they answer "yes" to some of the questions, they have to answer a lot more following than if they answer "no". The incentive to participate throughout the years was gift cards for each time they paricipated. Clearly a lot of Bristol/Warren students answered honestly based on being first, but that doesn't mean all kids did at other schools. Ultimately, this study may not be accurate based on the students I know who admitted they didn't want to answer another page of questions, so they answered "no" in order to finish faster. I'm sure this is true throughout the region. Still sad there is such a high ratio.
Brian December 11, 2013 at 08:14 PM
I was surprised to read this but after talking to my teenage children one in 8th grade at KMS and 10 th grade at MHH it makes perfect sense...a large proportion of students who participated in this voluntary anonymous survey lied about issues of race, drugs and sex as a joke! My own kids admitted they went along with everyone else and answered the questions with the worst possible answers such as YES I do cocaine and Yes i am high at school... (there was no incentive of gift cards since this survey was handed out to all students in all grades,,however there are other surveys that do offer these types of incentives fyi ) Before everyone gets up an arms lets look at other factors as mentioned in the comments by education pvalue..this should give a better idea on what is going on in our schools
Cynthia Boland December 12, 2013 at 07:10 AM
The title is misleading...
Betty December 12, 2013 at 07:56 AM
I believe this. I have 2 in the high school and 1 in the middle school and I ask them about this, they told me they see kids passing drugs all the time to one another and when I pick my children up in the park across the street from the high school there's a bunch of kids smoking in a group, if you watch them close you will see money and drugs passed to one another I can point them out everyday. I guess if everyone wasnt related to soneone on the staff and the staff wasnt scared of these kids this wouldn't be happening. The Bristol police dept is a joke, they are trying ti keep the good image up and pretend nothing is going on. So all the parents who are saying my kid lied on the survey and many other kids did also get over yourself and stop being like the police and staff and being in denial because its everywhere in Bristol. Your sweet pretty town is smoothered in drugs and junkies. Read the paper every week and see all the people getting locked up for it.
John December 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM
I think Betty works for the survey company. Why would someone who supposidy is picking up her kid up there say "Your Sweet Town", which obviously would mean you are not even from here. Also why has she never walked over to the Police presence that is there everyday and say something. Nice try at stoking the survey.
Still Broke December 12, 2013 at 01:18 PM
Maybe a lot of kids did think it was a joke but, I'm sure a lot of kids in other schools thought it was a joke too. We can't bury our heads in the sand and pretend there isn't a problem or hope it goes away on it's own. I hope the police and school administration are paying attention to this.
Mike Rotch December 12, 2013 at 02:43 PM
Shouldn't need a survey to find out your kids are baked.
Christopher O'Brien December 12, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Yeah, I used to lie on those surveys every year. I had never done any drugs or had so much as a sip of alcohol at that point in my life, but I said I did everything, all the time. There are only so many ways you can rebels as a high school student that won't potentially ruin your future. Every student I knew took this obvious opportunity to not take something seriously. These self-reporting surveys are beyond flawed.
Betty December 12, 2013 at 08:50 PM
To John know your facts cause I was born and raised here I dont have to walk over to the police cause they are in the parking lot. The law is you have to be 18 to buy cigarettes and the police know some of the kids at the park are not 18 but they don't say anything to them like I said before they are scared of these punks. So John again Bristol is full of drugs and junkies so this precious little town is ran pathetic

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