Kaua’i teens in substance abuse trouble

A profile of youth substance abuse on Kaua’i, and a report on Hawai’i’s teens, are showing that alcohol, tobacco and other drug use among Kaua’i youth exceed state averages.

A University of Hawai’i study is showing that compared to the statewide average of 26.9 percent, 40.7 percent of 12th graders on Kaua’i needed substance abuse treatment, according to the report. It was also reported that 3.2 percent of 12th graders used crystal meth, more than twice the state average of 1.4 percent.

The University of Hawai’i’s Center on the Family published the “Profile of Hawai’i’s Teens” in September 2002. The publication includes community profiles outlining risks and protections against substance abuse for teen-agers, using 1999 and 2000 data from more than 30 national, state and local resources.

One report used in the community profile was a 2000 State Department of Health study on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. The report asked teens whether they had used certain substances during the month leading up to the test.

On Kaua’i, the study shows, in comparison to other counties, more Kaua’i teens said they drink alcohol every day. There are about 13,000 children ages 10-19, and about 98,600 teens in the state.

“I noticed a prevalence of use-Kauai is the highest (within the last 30 days before taking the test) in alcohol, cigarettes, crystal methamphetamine,” said Marcia Hartsock, a faculty member of the UH center.

In the state, an average 32.5 percent of teens used alcohol; for Kaua’i, it was 35.4 percent. Overall, 16.5 percent of teens said they smoked; 16.8 percent of Kaua’i teens used tobacco. The state average for marijuana was 17 percent; for Kaua’i, it was 19.3 percent.

An irony found in the report is that of the 13 communities in the state surveyed in the study, Kaua’i teens experience lower crime rates and higher rates of protection and neighborhood stability is high, according to the community profile. “Kaua’i had the most kids in the ‘highly protected’ category, which means that they should be the least likely to have substance abuse,” Hartsock continued.

The highest-ranking protective factor for Kaua’i teens was peer education programs – each of Kaua’i’s three high schools have one, meaning Kaua’i teens should be 40 percent more protected. The highest risk for Kaua’i teens was family conflict, which scored nearly 8 percent lower than the state average.

Other protections against substance abuse are enrollment in one school all year, opportunities for “positive involvement” and adults who are members of a religious/spiritual community. Risks included availability of handguns and drugs, poor academic performance and friends’ use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

The community profiles were funded by a three-year, $8.4 million State Incentive Grant (SIG) from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. The “Profile of Hawai’i’s Teens” study was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which studies the welfare of children in each state.

Goals for the SIG were to reduce substance use among 12-17-year-olds by building substance-abuse prevention partnerships; and to extend substance abuse prevention resources to communities, schools and workplaces.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse in 1998 found that in Hawai’i substance abuse-related expenditures totaled more than $438 million, but less than 3 percent was spent on prevention and treatment.

For more information, access www.uhfamily.hawaii.edu or www.aecf.org/kidscount/kc2002.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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