A survey of public high school students in Pitt County indicates that more than 20 percent of them drank alcohol, 33 percent smoked marijuana and 41 percent used tobacco last year.

The 2016 survey on substance use and youth risk behaviors also indicated that 8.5 percent of students reported they had been in a fight, 19 percent had been bullied, 25 percent reported they were depressed and 13 percent had considered suicide.

Elizabeth Montgomery Lee, director of the Pitt County Coalition on Substance Abuse, reported the results of the survey to members of the Pitt County Board of Education during the board’s Feb. 20 workshop meeting.

The annual survey was distributed to all the systems students who participated on an anonymous basis to provide insight into their behavior and help educators and parents address it, Lee said.

“Pitt County as a whole, people need to realize what our youth are facing and what they are doing,” she said.

The survey focused on fights, substance abuse, bullying, depression and suicide, Lee said. Close to 2,400 students participated. 

Results showed that 8.5 percent of students in the past 12 months participated in a fight while 19 percent said they were bullied on school property. When asked about being bullied through email, chatrooms and social medial like Facebook, 13 percent reported experiencing that form of bullying. 

“When we look at mental health, which sometimes can be linked to how they are bullied or in a fight, we find that 25 percent of our students feel they are in a state of depression,” Lee said. 

When asked about suicide, 13 percent of the students reported considering it. “If we take that one step further, 9 percent said they actually tried, so that’s kind of scary,” Lee said. “And so, when dealing with this, how are they dealing with their depression, their suicidal thoughts? Some are turning to smoking.” 

Lee said 8.5 percent reported that they were smoking, which was a decrease from previous surveys. 

The teens reported they acquired their tobacco with the help from friends and family or they purchased it themselves, Lee said. While there was a decline in cigarette smoking, 41 percent of students reported vaping — using electronic smoking devices.

Lee said she has heard reports of students vaping in classrooms.

Twenty-two percent of students reported they had used alcohol in the last 30 days, Lee said. “We can be proud, we still have that 22 percent that compared to the nation is about 33 percent,” she said.

Defining binge drinking as four drinks per two hours for girls and five per two hours for boys, Lee said 11 percent of students reported binge drinking in the past 30 days. Teens reported acquiring alcohol from friends, siblings or homes where adults gave them permission to drink or provided alcohol. They reported drinking vodka, rum and beer among other beverages. 

Smirnoff Ice, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Bacardi Breezers and other so-called alcopops — alcohol mixed with juices and carbonated drinks and sold in four or six packs — also reportedly were popular among the teens.

Some students reported they had 10 or more occurrences of binge drinking in the previous 30 days.

“Those kids have problems,” Lee said. The majority of those who participated believed that their parents thought it was wrong. 

Questions about drug use showed that 33 percent of the students were using marijuana. Lee blamed the legalization of the drug in many states.

“It’s up everywhere because of the states saying it’s good medicinally,” she said.

Four percent of students in the survey reported using cocaine. Six percent of students reported the use of inhalants while 2.5 percent reported heroin use. Ecstasy was reportedly used by about 3 percent of the students. There were a reported 5.5 percent of students using synthetic marijuana. 

Adderall, Ritalin and Xanax were used by about 10 percent of those who participated, she said.

She said 15 percent of the students reported receiving the drugs on school property. Out of all students surveyed, 91 percent reported that they recognized it’s not good to mix pregnancy with alcohol, Montgomery said.

Use of prescription painkillers was at 12 percent, Lee said.

“One note of this is that we are seeing a lot of opioid overdoses,” Lee said. “A lot of these kiddos will start from an injury. They will progress to becoming addicted. It’s harder to get the painkillers. They then have 40 times more of a chance of using heroin once they become addicted to painkillers.”

Contact Sharieka Botex at 252-329-9567 and sbotex@reflector.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShariekaB.