Hon Graham Jacobs MBBS FRACGP MLA

Hon Graham Jacobs MBBS FRACGP MLA

Former Minister for Water; Mental Health

Drug and alcohol use down among WA teenagers

27/09/2009 12:00 AM

Fewer Western Australian high school students are trying alcohol or using illegal drugs, according to a recent national survey of 12 to 17-year-olds.


The 2008 Australian School Students Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey, which is conducted every three years, revealed 80.5 per cent of WA high school students had never tried illegal drugs, up from 75.3 per cent in 2005. 


It also showed 15.9 per cent of school students had never tried alcohol, up from 12.3 per cent.  Frequency of alcohol consumption had also decreased for use in the past year (63.9 per cent), the past month (40.2 per cent) and the past week (26.9 per cent), since the last survey in 2005.


Mental Health Minister Graham Jacobs said it was good to see positive trends among the survey’s findings including a reduction in the use of cannabis and amphetamines, the two most commonly used illegal drugs by students.


“Use of cannabis is down across all measured time periods and the rate of students who used amphetamines in the year leading up to the survey has almost halved since 2002, from 10 per cent to 5.3 per cent,” Dr Jacobs said. 


“As a doctor, I am acutely aware of the damage that can be done by using drugs and alcohol at an early age, so it is really pleasing to see more students getting the message about the dangers of using them.”


While fewer students were trying alcohol for the first time, the rate of risky drinking in the 14 to 17 years age group was still of concern.  For boys, a risky level of alcohol was defined as seven or more standard alcoholic drinks in a day and for girls, it was five or more drinks.


Of the male students in this age group who had consumed alcohol in the week before the survey, 26.5 per cent reported drinking risky levels of alcohol.  For the girls, it was 32.5 per cent.


“The State Government takes the issue of binge drinking extremely seriously and is developing a number of initiatives to reduce the number of young people drinking alcohol this way,” the Minister said.


“Working with the WA Police to target high-risk areas such as Northbridge, controlling young people’s access to alcohol through appropriate liquor licensing and focusing attention on periods of potential harm, such as leavers’ week, are all part of the comprehensive approach we are taking.”


Of the students who had tried alcohol, 45.8 per cent said it was given to them by their parents and 70.3 per cent had consumed alcohol under adult supervision.


Dr Jacobs said parents who provided their children with alcohol needed to seriously consider the National Health and Medical Research Council’s ‘Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.


“For young people aged 18 years and under, the council advises not drinking alcohol is the safest option to preventing alcohol-related harm,” he said. 


“More specifically, young people aged 15 years and under are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking alcohol so it’s especially important this age group doesn’t drink.


“For young people aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.”


Use of ecstasy among students remained low and relatively stable compared to the 2005 and 2002 surveys and, overall, use of other illegal drugs is down.


The 2008 survey was completed by 2,802 Western Australian students, including approximately 1,000 students from schools in regional areas.  Participating students came from a mix of Government, Catholic and independent schools.


A copy of the survey report is attached.


Minister's office  - 9213 6900