Binge Drinking Still a Concern Among Teens

Fewer Ontario teens are getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol and teen smoking is at an all-time low in the province, according to new research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The latest results of the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey suggest teenagers are paying attention to anti-smoking messages with just nine per cent of adolescents smoking cigarettes — down from 12 per cent in 2009.

Rates of drinking and driving also continue to fall with seven per cent of teens saying they drove within an hour of consuming two or more alcoholic drinks. In 2009, 12 per cent said they had driven drunk, while in the early 1980s about 46 per cent of teens reported drinking and driving.

“We were pleasantly surprised to find that students’ use of most of the substances tracked by this survey declined during the past decade, even for those substances that historically have been used at high rates,” Dr. Robert Mann, a senior scientist at CAMH and the survey’s principal investigator, said in a release.

But the researchers warn there are still areas of concern when it comes to teens and alcohol and drug use.

While binge drinking rates have dropped in the last decade, there are still 223,500 high school students who say they consume five or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting at least once month. The researchers found that 1 in 10 students say they drink during periods of elevated psychological distress.

Another area of concern is teens driving after smoking marijuana, something the survey found is more common than drinking and driving.

The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey is the longest running school survey in the country. For the 2011 data, researchers surveyed 9,288 students in Grades 7 to 12 from 181 schools.

This is the first year the survey asked students about energy drinks that contain high levels of caffeine. The survey found 50 per cent of teens consume these popular beverages, making energy drinks the second most commonly consumed substance after alcohol.

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