A newly released report on student drug use shows the number of Island teens using cannabis and other drugs went up in 2010-2011 while alcohol and tobacco use was dropping.
Health Minister Doug Currie said the survey reinforces what the government has already heard and seen in relation to drug addiction.
“There’s nothing really surprising in the study and the survey that was done,” he said.
Health Canada was involved in the study that surveyed 2,830 Island students in grades 6-12 from 54 schools across the province to get its results, although its authors said self-reported answers are known for under or over reporting.
What it found was that 18.8 per cent of students reported using cannabis in the year covered by the survey, which was up from 17.9 per cent in 2008-2009.
When it came to heavier drugs, 11.1 per cent reported using them within the year compared to 10.7 per cent the year before.
The study pointed out what it considered a significant increase in amphetamine use with 2.7 per cent admitting to using it in 2010-2011 compared to 1.4 per cent in 2008-2009.
While there was increased use of some substances, the report showed alcohol and tobacco use dropped compared to 2008-2009.
That included a 3.9 per cent decrease in alcohol use, which the report said was a significant change.
The survey results came out more than a month after the province released its strategy to address addictions and mental health issues, which included $1.2 million in new initiatives such as appointing Dr. Rhonda Matters as the new chief mental health and addictions officer.
The province used to pay for a drug use study from Dalhousie University, but stopped as a way to save money.
But with the increased efforts underway to address addictions issues in P.E.I., Currie was asked about the possibility of commissioning studies other than the student survey.
Currie said Matters’s work is well underway and he didn’t think the government needed any more studies or data.
“I think that we’ve done an extensive job on identifying the issue,” he said.
Currie also said the survey provided good information Matters can use as she moves forward with her work.
“It will be a very positive tool,” he said.
Stratford-Kinlock MLA James Aylward said he wasn’t surprised at all by the survey and although it was done anonymously, he wondered how many students would admit to using prescription drugs.
“That number is still very telling about what’s going on in our school system with our youth these days and the high incident rate of opiate use,” he said.
Aylward said he still doesn’t think the government realizes youth drug use is as serious a problem as it is in P.E.I.
“We know there’s a problem. What we need to do is see action from this government,” he said.
Data from the 2012-2013 school year will be available this summer.