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Study exposes teenage substance use in Mayo


Ger Flanagan

FORTY-five percent of 15 to 16 year olds in Mayo reported being drunk more than once in their lifetime, while 15 percent have admitted using cannabis at least once. That’s according to a countywide survey conducted by the Western Region Drugs and Alcohol Task Force (WRDATF), in conjunction with Planet Youth. The research encompassed all 26 secondary schools and three Youthreach centres in Mayo.
The report, ‘Growing up in the West’, looked at the prevalence of substance abuse in young people in Mayo, and the reasons why they took these substances.
It found that 26 percent of 15 to 16 year olds reported being drunk in the last month, with 23 percent saying they had consumed alcohol in pubs or clubs. The full 26 percent said they had consumed alcohol in the homes of friends. A total of 8 percent said they used tranquilisers at least once in their life, while 2 percent had used ecstasy.
Joe O’Neill of the WRDATF said the report identified a broad social tolerance towards underage drinking that needs to be addressed.

Environmental factors
On a more positive note, 92 percent of the teenagers reported that it was very easy to receive caring and warmth from their parents, while 95 to 97 percent feel their parents would disapprove strongly of them using cannabis. (That’s compared to 74 percent who say their parents would strongly disapprove of drunkenness.)
Thirty percent agreed that they felt it was important to drink so that you’re not left out of the peer group; 13 percent felt the same for smoking, and 8 percent for cannabis.
In their extra-curricular activities, 29 percent of the 15 to 16 year olds reported one hour or less of physical activity per week, with 54 percent exerting themselves physically three times a week or more.
A total of 39 percent play sports with a club or team three times a week or more, and these are three times less likely to smoke cigarettes or cannabis; however, they are slightly more likely to get drunk.

Planet Youth
The Planet Youth model, first developed in Iceland, has been used to reduce substance-use rates among teenagers considerably over a 20-year period in 18 countries worldwide.  
“The Planet Youth model uses data from the surveys to help us understand better the lives of our young people locally,”  Pat Conway, WRDATF Community Liason Officer for Mayo, explains. “This data then guide a series of interventions that focus on changing the social environment that our children and adolescents are growing up in.”
A steering committee, comprised of statutory, community and voluntary representatives, has been established in Mayo to plan and deliver a set of prevention responses on the back of the report. Further data collections in 2020 and 2022 will then be used to assess these responses’ impact.