Report: Teen drinking at high levels

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series on risky behavior in teens. The second installment is planned for Sunday.

A recent study conducted by three New Mexico entities, show that Roosevelt County students in grades nine through 12 are engaging in risky behavior, including binge drinking and drug use, at what officials say is an alarming level.

Conducted by the New Mexico Department of Health, New Mexico Public Education Department and the University of New Mexico Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, the 2005 New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, focused on behavior associated with drugs, drinking, sex, and suicide, among other issues.

“What it (the report) tells me about youth in Roosevelt County, is they are engaging in risky behavior that is higher than the state level and the national level,” said Terry Teti, Executive Director, Community Resources Inc.

Consisting of 137 questions, the survey has checks on the test that can determine if a student is lying. Of the surveys issued to students, 224 were accepted. Each school district is able to receive the results for their specific district, said Teti.

Teti stated that results from the survey were startling. Students are engaging in sexual activity at a higher rate, than was reported in 2003.

The report also shows that females are more active than males.

Students are also using drugs and binge drinking, said Teti.

“It’s an alarming thing, it’s scary,” said Thomas Tafoya, Portales High School Counselor.

Tafoya felt that the problems focused on in the report are increasing in the county. Issues reported on in the survey, are being dealt with at the school level. Plans are being put into place to offer programs to the students to educate them on the many issues that they face in today’s society, he said.

“There’s no doubt we need to do something about it,” said Tafoya.

The report showed that 70.4 percent of students binge drink. Females scored the highest, with 70.7 percent engaging in binge drinking, while 69.5 percent of males participated in binge drinking. The report also showed that 26.5 percent of students received the alcohol from their parents, and most drinking occurred at other people’s homes, said Teti.

Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks, in a row, or within two hours, within the 30-day study period, according to the YRRS report.

The report indicates that 32.7 percent of females in the age group reported smoking cigarettes in the last 30 days, while 27.1 percent of males in the age group reported smoking cigarettes within that time frame.

Another problem facing teens in Roosevelt county is drug usage. The report stated that drug use in the county is higher than the state level.

Through observation and testimonial from students, Teti has learned that the students are leaving school campuses at lunch to participate in smoking and drug usage. In a 12-month period, 12.6 percent of the students were offered drugs while on campus, she said.

“I would really like to see a program where the kids stay on campus during lunch,” said Teti.