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Study Finds 60% of La Canada 11th Graders Have Tried Drugs

February 04, 1988|MARILYN MARTINEZ | Times Staff Writer

Sixty percent of the 11th graders at La Canada High School have tried drugs and 83% have been intoxicated at least once, according to a city-funded survey.

The survey concluded that the use of drugs in the seventh grade is low or non-existent but rises sharply as students approach the 11th grade, said La Canada High Principal Drew Meyer.

About half of seventh, two-thirds of ninth and four-fifths of 11th-grade students reported at least some use of alcohol in the previous six months. At the ninth grade, 53% of the students reported they had never been intoxicated, but by the 11th grade, only 17% would make the same statement. Eight percent of the 11th graders said they drink beer daily.

While alcohol use was reported as common among seventh graders, most students reported first-time marijuana use only in the later grades.

Drugs Used 'for Fun'

No seventh-grade students reported marijuana use and less than 10% of ninth graders had used it. But by the 11th grade, more than half the students reported some use of marijuana and 8.5% reported daily use. Ninety-three percent of 11th graders report "having fun" as reasons why students use drugs.

Dr. Rodney Skager, a UCLA research professor who conducted the survey, said the results were not significantly high for a white, upper-middle-class community like La Canada Flintridge. Skager conducts similar surveys throughout the state for communities and school districts.

Most parents, teachers and community leaders said they were not surprised by the survey in which 20% of the seventh, ninth and 11th grade students at La Canada High School were questioned last September. The survey asked students about where and when they used drugs, whether their parents opposed alcohol and drug use and if they had been influenced by drug prevention education.

"It's what I expected," said Robin Garber, the mother of a La Canada High student. "I think it's this way across the nation. But it shows the community is brave enough to take a look at the problem here."

A group called the Community Prevention Council of La Canada Flintridge commissioned the survey to determine the precise size and type of drug problem the community was facing. It formed last April after a delegation of community leaders attended a seminar organized by Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp and includes members from various local organizations such as churches, the chamber of commerce and the sheriff's department.

Death Spurred Inquiry

"This goes back to a teen-age death," said La Canada Flintridge Mayor J. Bixby-Smith referring to 17-year-old Joe Lutz, who was drunk by legal standards when he fell from a balcony at an unsupervised teen-age party in 1986. Lutz's death was not discovered until the morning because no one had heard or seen him fall.

Smith said Lutz's death aroused a desire among community members to help their youth.

That desire "is now focused into a communitywide effort to fight substance abuse," Smith said. "That's the bottom line. It's not a city problem, not a school problem but certainly a parental problem and also the community's problem. The city is one of the team players."

About 100 people attended a meeting last Thursday at La Canada High School's auditorium at which the survey's results were discussed. Some in the audience questioned Community Prevention Council members on what actions could be taken to lower the teen-age use of drugs and alcohol. The group stressed the need for a conscious effort from parents and a willingness to get involved in community programs.

"Now that we have the results we can compare the programs to see if they are really addressing the problem we have identified," said Irene Mendon, a member of the Community Prevention Council and a school board member. "The goal was to really highlight that we have a communitywide prevention effort under way and to give parents a sense of hope, that we can address the situation as a community."

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