Survey Shows Valley Teens Aren't Afraid of Marijuana

By: Deon Guillory Email
By: Deon Guillory Email

HARRISONBURG, Va -- What are our teens doing when the parents aren't around? The 2011 Youth Data Survey helped to answer that question.

Eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County were surveyed. Here are just a few things officials found out:

Nearly 20-percent of teens use some sort of tobacco every month, nearly 22-percent drink alcohol every month and about 31-percent are sexually active.

For the most part, when it comes to alcohol or cigarettes, this new survey found fewer teens are using them. The same goes for hard drugs like cocaine and heroin.

There is one illegal substance that is leaving more teens in a cloud of smoke.

At Wednesday night's meeting, the Rockingham County board of supervisors found out how teens in the county's schools view risky behavior.

The Office on Children and Youth presented its findings of the annual youth data survey. It found that more than half of teens surveyed do not think marijuana is harmful.

"You get things like, 'Oh, you know, it's not harmful. It's a plant. It's made from earth. No one ever killed anyone getting high from marijuana. I drive better using marijuana,'" said Kim Hartzler-Weakly with the Office of Children and Youth.

One high school student described the perception of marijuana.

"It's become common thought, that marijuana is less harmful than tobacco products, which doesn't make sense because it's illegal for a reason," said Rachel Pleasant, high school senior.

Another senior said when compared to hard drugs, some people may think it is a safer option.

"People think that marijuana is safer than the hard drugs. There's this perception that it's okay to do marijuana, which is obviously not true.", said Jared Geil, high school senior.

Harder drug usage of drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine are down. The survey also found that fewer teens are drinking and smoking cigarettes. All of these findings are in line with teens and drug use across the nation.

Teens told a WHSV reporter that drug usage depends on peer pressure.

"just because you hear about it in music, or you hear about famous people doing crazy stuff, or you hear about some of your friends doing stuff, it doesn't make it right for you." said Pleasant.

The survey also found that teens who use hard drugs are using them more often and steroid use is up in the Valley.


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