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Survey Finds Fewer Kentucky 10th Graders Using Drugs, But Rate Still Higher Than National Average

Oleg Dudko
123rf Stock Photo

Fewer Kentucky 10th graders reported using drugs in 2016 than they did the previous year, but slightly more students have attempted to kill themselves. These are two of the findings from a biennial state survey.

  On average, almost 10 percent of 10th graders in western Kentucky reported a suicide attempt in 2016. The number of students who have attempted suicide has risen in eight out of 14 regions since 2014. The same was true for almost 10 percent of 10th graders living in the ‘Comprehend’ region, which includes Fleming, Louis, Mason and Bracken counties.

Drug use overall dropped in 2016, when compared to the 2015 survey results.

Around 27,000 10th grade students took online and written surveys in 149 out of 173 public school districts. Schools in Jefferson County, as well as Fayette County — where Lexington is located — Meade, Warren, Morgan, Laurel and Martin counties did not participate in the survey.

Highlights from the report include:

  • The Pennyroyal region, which includes Lyon, Todd, Trigg and Caldwell counties, had the highest rate of 10th graders reporting drinking alcohol in the previous 30 days. These students also use e-cigarettes the most out of any other region in Kentucky. The 10th graders in this region also had the the second highest rate of smoking cigarettes in the state.
  • Tenth graders in the Four Rivers region, which includes Calloway, Marshall, Graves and Livingston counties, reported the highest rate of speed and “upper” use in 2016. Almost three percent of these students said they used one of those drugs in the last 30 days. Students in this region also had the highest rate of using tranquilizers and only about three-quarters of students there thought using heroin once or twice could lead to addiction.
  • The Centerstone region, including Shelby, Oldham, Spencer and Bullitt counties, had the lowest rates of 10th grader binge drinking and smoking — although both statistics were still higher than the national average. Twenty percent of students there reported cyber-bullying.
  • Tenth graders in the Communicare region which includes Hardin, Marion, Washington, Nelson, Grayson and Larue counties reported the highest rate of painkiller use. The survey also asks students, “Have you ever cut or harmed yourself on purpose?” In these counties, nearly a quarter of those students replied “yes.” Tenth graders here also reported the highest rate of suicidal thoughts across the state.
  • In the Northkey region, where Owen, Grant and Kenton counties are located, 10th graders reported the lowest rate of smoking and of using smokeless tobacco. But at the same time, tenth graders here reported the highest use of smoking tobacco from a waterpipe or hookah.

The survey takes place every two years and was started in 1999 by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter. Most recently, she was a reporter for Kaiser Health News. During her career, Gillespie has covered all things health — from Medicaid and Medicare payment policy and rural hospital closures to science funding and the dietary supplement market.