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St. Petersburg's Lakewood High student newspaper reports on high drug use — and a shocking reason why

ST. PETERSBURG — Parker Fox isn't surprised that more than half of his classmates say they have used illegal drugs.

He already knew, from talk around school, that pot is more popular than beer.

The 18-year-old senior who edits Lakewood High's student newspaper said only one thing surprised him when his staff surveyed students about drugs: their reason for using them.

"We went in thinking that the main reason kids do drugs is peer pressure. Everyone's always telling us that," Fox said Tuesday. "But we found out, at least here, that wasn't the reason. Most kids said they did drugs because of stress."

The newspaper to be distributed today includes results from a survey of 176 students, along with two stories about Lakewood kids who say they have done drugs.

The SNN (Spartan News Network) comes out just two days after the White House announced the results of a national survey on teenage drug use — and a week after Florida released numbers from a state study on the same subject.

The polls were conducted differently, and the questions were not the same. But the conclusions were similar: For teenagers, the drugs of choice are alcohol and marijuana. Cigarettes and cocaine aren't cool.

"I don't think (drugs) are bad. Crack, popping pills and heroin are bad. I think weed is great," said a senior quoted anonymously on the high school newspaper's front page.

"You don't hear about people dying from weed," said an unnamed junior. "You hear them dying by cocaine and ecstasy."

The school survey asked 10 questions. Students didn't have to include their names.

"When it comes to drug use, we're probably about the same as any other school," Fox said. "We all know people who talk about it. Most of us know someone who does it. I don't know how hard it is to get weed because I've never tried. But some of my friends don't seem to have any trouble buying it."

• • •

According to the national survey, which was conducted by the University of Michigan and included 46,097 teenagers in 389 schools, cigarette smoking is at its lowest point since the study started in 1975. Cocaine consumption fell over the last year, from 4.4 percent of high school seniors using it to 3.4 percent. And binge drinking — downing more than five drinks in a day — fell, while pot smoking held steady.

Almost one-third of high school seniors surveyed admitted using marijuana.

Nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors used Vicodin, while 1 in 20 abused OxyContin. "When asked how prescription narcotics were obtained," the survey reported, more than half of high school seniors "said they were given or bought them from a friend or relative."

Florida's survey showed that 39 percent of high school students have had an alcoholic drink in the last month; 18 percent have smoked pot; and 13 percent have smoked cigarettes.

Binge drinking, on the decline nationally, has grown in Florida. Last year, 14.8 percent of high school students admitted to having more than five drinks in a night. This year, the figure rose to 15.6 percent.

"I don't think that kind of drinking has changed a lot at our school," said Sylvia Czyszczon, 17, a Lakewood High junior who helped crunch the numbers for her school's newspaper survey. "I mean, there are people who are into it. And people who aren't."

She was surprised more kids at her school smoke pot than drink alcohol. "There's so much more peer pressure to drink than do drugs," she said. "But I guess some people just come to that on their own."

The third period journalism class at Lakewood High had talked about doing a survey on sex or pregnancy or teenage driving. But drugs were the most popular topic "by far," Fox said.

More than 80 percent of students there said they have heard classmates talking about doing illegal drugs. More than half said kids do drugs on campus. And 55 percent said there are known drug dealers at the school.

If so, school resource officer Lerric Boyd told the paper, "they are doing a good job to conceal it." In the last year, he said, he has arrested six students on drug-related charges: five for having pot, one for having enough to sell.

"I just think kids should be aware of what's going on around them. That was the main reason we wanted to do the survey: So we'd know," Czyszczon said. "Hopefully if kids know about it, they'll stay away from it and avoid trouble. I just hope it doesn't work the other way: That they think if everyone else is doing drugs, they should be too."

Lane DeGregory can be reached at degregory@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8825.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: A story Wenesday gave an incorrect Web address for the Lakewood High School student newspaper, SNN. The correct address is http://snntoday.snn.pcsb.org.

St. Petersburg's Lakewood High student newspaper reports on high drug use — and a shocking reason why 12/15/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 11:08am]

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