(CMR) While most students in years 7 to 13 do not use drugs, the 2022 Cayman Islands Student Drug Use Survey (CISDUS) revealed alcohol is still the number one drug of choice among Cayman’s teens, with forty-one percent (41%) of the students surveyed indicating the use of alcohol at least once in their lifetime.
The National Drug Council (NDC), in giving the preliminary results of the 11th survey, said this finding is in line with both regional and global data where alcohol is also the primary drug of choice among teens. The survey also found that the top three drugs of choice among students continue to be alcohol, e-cigarettes, and marijuana.
The CISDUS is a biennial survey that aims to identify and analyze the local trends in drug use and other risk behaviors among students enrolled in years 7 through 13.
“The NDC has been conducting the CISDUS since 1998. As one can imagine, the community transmission of COVID-19 that started in the fall of 2021 presented a major challenge that would require an innovative solution in order to ensure that the 2022 cycle could, in fact, be completed,” explained Brenda Watson, Acting Director.
“The team delivered: the 2022 Survey was the first to be administered in an online and modular format, and to our knowledge, is the first student drug survey within the Caribbean region to be successfully administered online at a national level,” she added.
The CISDUS is conducted among both public and private school students across Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, and in 2022 a total of 3,608 students participated across both islands.
“The CISDUS is an important piece of research not just for us at the NDC, but for multiple stakeholders. The data that we gather via the survey affords our leaders, advocates, and educators the opportunity to take a data-driven approach to policy development, programming, and the allocation of resources so as to ensure that they address the most urgent needs and make the greatest possible impact,” Laila Shim, Research Analyst, stated.
Preliminary results from the 2022 survey show positive outcomes, with most students in years 7 through 13 continuing not to use drugs. Students’ perception of the harms and risks surrounding substance use is also relatively high, with a perception of great risk being reported for smoking one or more packs of cigarettes a day (66%), daily alcohol consumption (49%), and regularly smoking marijuana (47%). Most students also reported that their friends would not approve of them using a substance like alcohol or marijuana. According to global research, this represents a critical protective factor in delaying the onset of youth substance use.
More teens trying e-cigarettes at a younger age
The rise in e-cigarette use among young people has sparked concern among global communities. The 2022 CISDUS results show that young people are three times more likely to have tried an e-cigarette/vape at the age of 13 years or younger when compared to the use of a traditional cigarette. A reported twenty-nine percent (29%) of students have tried an e-cigarette at least once in their lifetime, and our results show a slight increase in the proportion of current use among students.
“It is imperative that the risks surrounding e-cigarette and vaping devices continue to be discussed among young people, as well as parents and the community at large,” Simon Miller, Prevention Specialist, explained.
“Research from UC Davis and Stanford University shows us that every big tobacco company owns at least one e-cigarette or vape company, even though the message is that e-cigarettes are somehow ‘disrupting regular smoking.’ We must take the lessons that we learned from the anti-smoking efforts of the 80s and 90s and apply them now, before we allow history to repeat itself with e-cigarettes,” he warned.
Decrease in the use of marijuana.
With respect to marijuana, fourteen percent (14%) of students reported having tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime, marking a slight decrease in lifetime use from the 2020 results. Additionally, the number of students reporting the use of marijuana in the past 30 days, also known as current use, has seen a steady decrease in proportions since the 2018 survey.
However, 2022 CISDUS findings conclude that while students’ perception of the risks associated with regular marijuana use is high, their attitude towards occasional use still varies greatly, with twenty-five percent (25%) believing there is no risk from trying marijuana once or twice.
A common theme from the 2022 data was that students want to know more about substances. More than half of the student population (62%) indicated that they would like to receive more drug education in their schools, specifically concerning substances such as e-cigarettes/vapes, alcohol, and marijuana.
“The work of the NDC is crucial not only because of its long-standing data-driven approach but also because they actively seek feedback from the very population which they serve,” Hon. Sabrina Turner, Minister for Health and Wellness, said.
“It is important to understand not only the behaviors and attitudes of our youth towards alcohol and other drugs but also their knowledge gaps and willingness to learn more on these important subjects. Our approach to health and wellness, at all levels, must include those populations whom we serve to ensure that our programming and services remain relevant. And, of course, we must act on what we find where we can and advocate for such action from relevant agencies for that which falls outside of our remit,” she added.
The NDC currently works with both primary and high schools to provide Research Informed Student Education (RISE) that provides students with evidence-based drug education in an interactive and informative manner. The aim of all prevention programming is to empower young people with the skills and knowledge necessary to make positive and healthy life choices.
“These results are only a snapshot of the overall data findings of the 2022 CISDUS,” Mrs. Watson clarified.
She stated, “We are currently disseminating the preliminary results to our stakeholders, school administrators, parents, students, and the general public through a series of presentations in an effort to educate, empower and engage them not only with the data but also with the numerous services which the NDC provides to the community.”
For additional information regarding the 2022 CISDUS results or to schedule a 2022 CISDUS presentation, contact the National Drug Council at 949-9000 or email: [email protected].