Tiverton Middle School Students Among Highest in Smoking, Marijuana Use

Data was compiled by the Department of Epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health for the RI State Epidemiology and Outcomes Workgroup for use by cities and towns to battle substance abuse.

Written by William Rupp and Sandy McGee 

Students in Tiverton schools are among the highest users of marijuana and illegal drugs in school in Rhode Island, according to a special report released for all of the state’s communities on Monday, Dec. 9.

The data was compiled by the Department of Epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health for the Rhode Island State Epidemiology and Outcomes Workgroup headed by Brown Professor Stephen Buka.

The workgroup is a cross-state agency formed because there is no single state agency that is responsible for drug-use prevention, reporting and treatment, said Buka.

According to the results, Tiverton High School students rank (in comparison to Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns):

  • 4 in the use of marijuana; 
  • 6 in being under the influence of drugs in school;
  • 13 in alcohol use at school; 
  • 34 in their illegal use of cocaine;
  • 33 in their use of prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, and Adderall. 

Tiverton Middle School students rank:

  • 1 in smoking; 
  • 2 in marijuana use;
  • 6 in using inhalants;
  • 11 in current alcohol use; 
  • 11 in prescription drug use;
  • 13 in overall alcohol use.

The students are asked straight-forward questions such as:

  • Have you tried prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription?
  • Have you tried marijuana?
  • Have you tried inhalants?
  • Have you tried cocaine?
  • Have you been under the influence of drugs at school during the past 12 months?
Click here to see the results for yourself at the RI Prevention Resource Center.
Joe S. December 11, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Is this one of those studies where they ask the kids to fill out a survey ? I wonder where the data came from .
Renee Cwiek December 11, 2013 at 01:44 PM
That's what I'm wondering too Joe, because I don't remember my middle school child ever taking a survey like this. How accurate are surveys like this? It all depends on how honest a child is being to begin with. I actually sent off an email asking when the kids took this survey.
Renee Cwiek December 11, 2013 at 01:46 PM
When she gets home from school, I'm going to ask her if she ever took a survey like this.
Joe S. December 11, 2013 at 01:49 PM
I remember taking one at Rogers High . I said yes on questions to drugs I never heard of . Most I know did the same . We thought it was a big joke .
Joe S. December 11, 2013 at 01:50 PM
PS. I'm not naive, some are trying them . Need to be talking to the kids .
OldTownie December 11, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Joe, So you admit to being a liar? Wow, never thought that would happen.
Renee Cwiek December 11, 2013 at 02:10 PM
I just asked my high schooler if she's ever taken a survey like that and she said yes, but she doesn't read the questions and just fills in anything. Great. I'll ask the other one when she gets out too.
Rebecca Elwell December 11, 2013 at 02:27 PM
The data that is used to determine these statistics were taken from the SurveyWorks survey administered yearly by the RI Department of Ed. To review survey results for Tiverton Middle School go to: http://infoworks.ride.ri.gov/school/tiverton-middle-school
Renee Cwiek December 11, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Thank you Rebecca! I was wondering if that was the one.
Daniel Rodriguez December 12, 2013 at 07:04 AM
I am a researcher who has conducted a great deal of research on adolescent smoking. I am also a parent of TMS student. These studies are quite accurate. Although one student may not be paying attention to what she filled out, most do. Steve Buka is an extremely well known researcher in the field, and is highly esteemed by his peers. I assure you that he knows what he is doing. Indeed, as a researcher and instructor in research methods, I must let you know that the standards for publishing studies is so high that any minor error in validity (the test measures what it is intended to measure) would be caught immediately and the sanctions would be quite strong. You asked whether these surveys are accurate? The research to date shows that they are, even with adolescents. Of course they cannot be perfectly accurate and there is sampling error. One reason we can never be certain with young adolescents is because they do not smoke at the intensities required for biochemical verification. With adults, a simple urine sample or breath test could be used to confirm smoking status. With children and adolescents, that is not so easy because they just don't smoke enough. However, trying smoking is a gateway to smoking, and that's bad enough. What's the answer? Monitor your children. Ask them if they tried cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol or any other substance. Ask them if they know children who've done so, and tell them the dangers of these substances. That's it:-)
IC Facts December 12, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Daniel, Thanks for the information. However, I'm not as convinced about these findings as you are. They seem somewhat anomalous, given that Tiverton has an active drug prevention coalition, and--from my experience--very active and committed parents. Of course, I'm not naive enough to think that none of are kids are experimenting. Given the lack of ability to validate findings through urine testing or other methods, how can we be sure that Tiverton kids weren't answering randomly, purposely answering falsely, or simply answering less randomly and more honestly than kids from other communities?
Renee Cwiek December 12, 2013 at 01:03 PM
I agree with you IC....I don't know where my previous post went, but I'll add it again. I talked to several high school and middle school kids last night. All friends of my girls. None of them seem to take it seriously, and many "make a pattern" on the survey. I also asked my 12 year old if she knew what an "inhalant" was, and she responded with, "it's the thing I use when I have an asthma attack". I don't know how the questions are worded on the survey, but I just can't see how any of this is accurate. I'm really not trying to sound naive, but it just seems off to me.
Michael Medeiros December 12, 2013 at 01:50 PM
As someone who went to both of these schools in the last ten years, the high school one seems about right, but the middle school one is completely false. Those kids just answered yes to be cool. I bet if you asked them what being high feels like, they would be wrong.
Joe S. December 12, 2013 at 05:30 PM
RI Dept. of Education . They need to cut that make work budget way back . Political cesspool !
Hingle McCringleberry December 12, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Joe could you explain what you mean by a make work budget and explain how that is relevant to the topic at hand.
Joe S. December 12, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Figure it out yourself Dingle Berry .
Hingle McCringleberry December 12, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Sounds like the mouthy words of mad who can't explain what he is talking about. Good work tea party.
Jeff Heath December 12, 2013 at 11:12 PM
As the health educator at TMS, on my initial reading of the title as well as a quick look at the data I was both amazed and alarmed at the findings. However, before I rethink my curriculum there are some things to just take note of in reviewing this data set. First, when looking at many of the categories, the amount of variability between schools is minimal. Simply put, the difference between 2nd and 3rd or 5th and 20th is at times noteworthy and at others minute. For example, when looking at the first listed graph "MS Prescription Drug Use 2012-13" (pg. 6 of the PDF) the difference between student reported use is as follows: Tiverton (4.2%) RI (3.3%) a difference of 0.9% of school population. That would be roughly equivalent to a difference of 4 more students reporting use in Tiverton than in the town that is being applauded for their excellent scores, Portsmouth (who scored a 3.3% equivalent to the state average)... this hardly appears to be a major difference. Although I'll be the first to state that one student, in any town experimenting with the surveyed drugs is one too many, the difference between many districts is not as large as it is portrayed. Secondly, without drawing unfair conclusions, rather simply drawing from the 2012 National Census as well as the contributing Rhode Island data from this report, I find it hard to believe that students in towns such as Tiverton, with reported student poverty rates at 7.2% (22nd in the state, essentially middle of the pack) according to these results, often report having greater experience with the surveyed drugs and alcohol than local communities that have known, long-standing problems with poverty and concurrent substance abuse such as Central Falls (36.3% poverty rate) and Woonsocket, (23.4% poverty rate). The poverty rates are relevant due to the fact that their is an extremely large body of research reporting positive correlations between high poverty communities and frequency of drug use among that population (more poverty = more drug use). Thus my hesitation lies in the idea that communities with such high reported poverty rates seem to regularly score better than communities such as Tiverton which appear to have relatively average poverty rates. Frankly, I don't know how much I buy into that. Needless to say, I will be having more drug-related discussions in my classes and will take this data into account as a part of my instruction (as I said, one student using this junk is one student too many) however, I also wanted to note some initial hesitations I have in making brash conclusions about the generalizations that can be made from this data.
Renee Cwiek December 13, 2013 at 07:34 AM
Thank you Mr. Heath for your post, and thank you for your concern for our kids!
Daniel Rodriguez December 13, 2013 at 11:33 AM
IC Facts, The only way to know is to look at the report Buka and colleagues writes up and publishes, which I'm sure they will at some point. From my experience conducting studies with adolescents, our team always took great pains to ensure that students didn't respond randomly, what we call response sets. It's not that hard to do. If we have a specific response scheme that does not allow random responding, we can easily see violations. Our team used to sit at a table and collect response packets from students, look for response sets, and then return the surveys to the students if we identified response sets. Steve Buka is a very well known and respected researcher. I'm sure his team has some approach to eliminating response sets. However, we will not know until his work is published.
IC Facts December 13, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Daniel, thanks for your response. Mr. Heath, thanks for your analysis, your hard work, and your concern for our kids. I'm going to have a talk about this with my middle school child this weekend.
IC Facts December 16, 2013 at 02:14 PM
For what it's worth, I asked my son about this the other night. He remembers taking the test. He said he answered honestly, and I believe him. When I told him that Tiverton supposedly has the highest rates of smoking and drinking, and without hesitation he said, "I doubt that's true." I asked him if he knew any kids who were doing it and he said no. I asked him if he heard of any kids doing it and he said no.


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