Survey Shows Students Turning To Physicians Less As Drug Abuse Increases

June 01, 1998

Hershey, Pa. --- A survey of 60,000 Pennsylvania students in middle school through high school revealed that as an increasing number of students are experimenting with and abusing alcohol and other drugs, there has been a simultaneous decrease in the willingness of adolescents and preadolescents to seek the help of physicians.

These results were presented today (June 1) at the national meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Toronto by Paul Kettl, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and acting chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Penn State's College of Medicine and medical student Kamara Thompson. The title of the presentation is "Trends in Teens Using Physicians for Drug Abuse Treatment."

"Students were less willing to seek help from a variety of sources such as parents, teachers and counselors, compared with only a few years earlier. However, doctors scored particularly low when it came to gaining the trust of children. This means parents can't assume physicians are discussing this problem with their children, because the data shows students don't trust physicians with these personal problems," says Kettl.

In 1989, 38 percent of sixth graders were comfortable turning to a physician compared to only 28 percent in 1995.

In 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1995, the Pennsylvania Governor's Drug Policy Council and the Pennsylvania Department of Education conducted surveys of students' attitudes towards alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. The students were in grades six, seven, nine and 12. Approximately 60,000 students from throughout the state participated in the survey.

"We also found that students today perceived the rate of problems from drugs as not as bad today as 10 years ago. This of course is not true. Many of the same problems exist today when a students gets involved with drugs as compared to years ago," Kettl says. "Children need to get a consistent message that drugs are not good for your health. They are getting that message but obviously not consistently enough based on this data."

These results were compiled by Diagnostics Plus, Inc. of State College, Pa. Kettl is also the chief of psychiatry with the Penn State Geisinger Health System in Hershey, Pa.


Leilyn Perri (o) (717) 531-8604 e-mail:
M. Steven Bortner (o) (717) 531-8606

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