Through a collaborative effort, Carbon County is learning about students' alcohol, tobacco and drug habits.

During a recent meeting of the Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative Board, Jamie Drake, treatment program manager for Carbon-Monroe-Pike County Drug and Alcohol Commission, presented the group with a PowerPoint presentation on the findings of the 2012 drug and alcohol survey. The survey, which was anonymous, was given to over 3,400 sixth- through 11th-grade students in all five school districts.

Drake explained that this is the fourth year the group has completed the survey in the schools; adding that the findings from this year were very similar to the results of the last few surveys.

The reason behind the survey is because the collaborative, which is made up of multiple county agencies that focus on children and families, wanted to see how many children are experimenting with drugs, tobacco or alcohol; and also finding out where is the starting point for preventive programs.

Drake said the findings showed that a significant number of students answered that they have never tried drugs, tobacco or alcohol; but it also showed that 1,032 have tried alcohol; 615 have tried tobacco and 514 have tried drugs.

She continued that of the students who have tried drugs, alcohol or tobacco, most started using in seventh and eighth grade. This point is particularly important for the group because it will allow the schools and county programs to focus on finding ways to talk to students before they reach seventh grade about the dangers of these substances.

Some of the most alarming results Drake pointed out during the presentation were where the children get these substances; why they use them; how many parents know their child uses; and what drugs they are using.

The survey revealed that students get the substances from friends, parents, siblings, other family members, strangers and businesses/dealers.

Drake pointed out that many students responded that they felt it was fairly easy to get alcohol, tobacco and drugs if they wanted them.

"This is disturbing because they think it's easy to get tobacco and other drugs," she said.

The main reason why they use was shocking as well, because many answered that they liked the taste. Other reasons were to get drunk/high; peer pressure; to be cool; boredom and to cope with stress.

On the other side, the children who reported that they don't use gave reasons for not trying drugs, alcohol or tobacco. They include future goals, sports, no interest in them, and academics.

Drake noted that a number of parents know that their child uses, including 159 that know they do drugs; 538 know they drink; and 255 know they smoke.

Drugs of choice appear to be marijuana, opiates (such as Heroine or Codeine), benzodiazepines (like Xanax or Valium), or bath salts.

Drake said that these facts are particularly alarming because of the withdrawal effects of some of these drugs.

In addition to learning about substance use in schools, the collaborative asked about bullying.

Of the students who participated in the survey, 2,716 reported that they feel safe in school; while 617 said they have felt unsafe at some point in their academic career.

The reasons why included bullying from their peers or older students; threats from adults; bullies outside of school and while riding on the buses.

Following the presentation, the collaborative board discussed ways to help combat these problems and hopefully lower the number of students who use drugs, smoke or drink.

It was agreed that prevention programs were needed in all schools throughout the year by incorporating them into the schools' curriculums. Programs should include drugs and alcohol use; as well as stress management and bullying.

The board also voiced concerns about the fact that some parents did not allow their student to participate in the survey and some parents are resistant to get their child help if they are beginning to use drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

The Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative is a board created by Partners for Progress in 2002 as a way to help children and families. The collaborative is made up of various county agencies, law enforcement officials, school districts, court officials, hospital administration, nurses, and more.

Since its inception, it has worked to create a number programs like the SHINE Afterschool Program and Career Academy, which helps children from birth through high school become strong in their academics and social skills through hands-on activities afterschool. It also has spearheaded a new telepsychiatry program in the Penn-Kidder Elementary School for any student in Carbon County who is in need of therapy.