GCASA survey of students at Genesee, Orleans reveals revealing data on substance use and perceived harm


Did you know:

  • That more than two-thirds of Genesee and Orleans county students in grades 7, 9, and 11 who reported drinking alcoholic beverages said they got them at home — some with their parents’ permission and others without their parents’ knowledge of the behavior?
  • Just under 20 percent of 11e students in both counties reported using an e-cigarette or vape pen containing nicotine in the past 30 days?
  • That less than 40% of students perceive harm from marijuana use, which is a significant decrease from previous years?

These are just three of the critical data points from the Community-Level Youth Development Assessment Survey administered to students in grades 7, 9 and 11 in 2021. The survey was commissioned by the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and facilitated by Depew’s Catalyst Insight.

The survey, known as CLYDE, is modeled after the former Communities That Care Youth Survey, a nationally validated study developed at the University of Washington to assess attitudes, behaviors and youth community risk and protective factors. It also incorporates elements of Bach Harrison’s prevention needs assessment survey.

GCASA is investigating young people from schools in Genesee and Orléans with whom it has had relations for several years. The latest survey yielded 2,234 valid responses from students at all three grade levels.

“It has been determined to investigate these particular grades, in particular 11e students – understanding that they would be seniors the following year and that strategies could be applied to prevention efforts targeting these students, if necessary,” said Shannon Ford, Director of Prevention at GCASA.


The survey questions are formulated to elicit specific information about students’ use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and their perceptions of parental attitudes and the degree of harm caused by these substances.

Baseline measures include use in the past 30 days, perception of harm from substance use, perception of parental disapproval of substance use, and perception of peer disapproval of substance use.

The risk factors explored – linked to an increased likelihood of substance use problems in youth – included supportive laws and norms, perceived availability of drugs, family conflict, commitment to school and child attitudes. peers and the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and/or drugs.

Protective factors, or areas where young people can be protected from substance use, include opportunities for social involvement, attachment to family, and belief in laws and norms.

“In general, students believe that their parents are opposed to the use of ATOD (alcohol, tobacco and other drugs), but it is concerning that 69% of those who said they drink – around 23% of those surveyed – say they have got the alcohol at home, with or without parental permission,” Ford said.

Sheila Harding, GCASA’s deputy director of prevention, said the agency continues to highlight the dangers of students drinking alcohol at home or at friends’ homes.

“Too many parents don’t understand the risks involved in allowing minors to drink in their homes,” she said. “There are liability issues, potential injury or even death and criminal implications. The responsible response is to not allow this activity.


Vaping is a growing concern, Ford said, adding that “an alarming number” of 7e-students – 3% – indicated that they vaped with nicotine.

As indicated above, 19.7% of the 11e graders in both counties said they vaped nicotine in the past 30 days, while 11.1% said they vaped marijuana in the same time period.

“Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances and we are now seeing vaping with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient in cannabis),” Harding said. “These vape pens are being marketed to our young people and we are seeing adverse effects on teenage brains that are not fully developed.”

The survey found that marijuana use by 11e-graders was at 14.4% – which is down about 50% from the survey three years ago. Interestingly, student perception of harm is 38.7%, which is also less than previous years.

“These perception data are likely due to the legalization of cannabis and the use of medical marijuana,” Ford said. “But just because it’s legal for adults doesn’t mean it doesn’t remove the risk for students. It’s still illegal for people under 21.


At the national level, rapid declines in the perception of marijuana-related risks among adolescents, however, have not translated into dramatic declines in use.

“Prevention leaders may need to consider different strategies as well as target perceptions of the risks associated with cannabis use,” Ford suggested. “As more states legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, further monitoring of predicted usage trends is essential.”

Ford pointed out that while the national focus is on the opioid epidemic, GCASA and other agencies have not withdrawn their prevention strategies as they relate to alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.

“We were able to get grants for compliance checks of retail establishments in both counties — something we haven’t done in a while but will come back to,” she said. “In the past, we’ve seen bars, restaurants and convenience stores do a good job of not selling to those under the legal drinking age.”

Other key findings from the 2021 CLYDE survey include:

  • Alcohol consumption in the last 30 days in Grade 11 fell to 19.6%, compared to 46% in Grade 11 in Orleans in 2019 and 33% in Grade 10 and 50% in Genesee in 2018.
  • About 90 percent of 11e-students report parental disapproval of alcohol and cigarettes, but this drops to 78% when it comes to marijuana.
  • When it comes to peer disapproval, overall the percentages range from 78 to 88 when it comes to alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drug use, but drops to 74 percent when it comes to marijuana.

In terms of risk factors, 60% of students surveyed indicated that low engagement with school was the main risk factor, followed by 45% who reported positive parental attitudes towards substance use and conflicts within the family unit.


On the protective side, 71.6% responded that social skills were important, followed by 65% ​​who indicated the importance of extracurricular activities at school and 60% who indicated the availability of community service programs.

“Social skills are enhanced through evidence-based programs in schools offered by GCASA and individual schools, while prosocial involvement is enhanced through community service hours and volunteerism,” Ford said.

Prevention initiatives – by agencies such as GCASA and through school programs – have resulted in a significant decrease in binge drinking (five or more alcoholic drinks in a row in the past two weeks), a she added.

“Overall, only 5% reported consuming alcohol in the past 30 days. That means 95% of students don’t,” she said. “We would like to believe that our prevention efforts are taking root.”

Another area of ​​concern is the mental and emotional health of students, especially after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The survey indicated that 33.4% of students said that sometimes life isn’t worth it44 percent said I am not good and that 40% were depressed — and it was consistent across all three grade levels,” Ford said. “Without a doubt, COVID has had an effect on students, but more resources need to be dedicated to addressing this issue.

For more information on the CLYDE investigation or GCASA’s prevention efforts, contact Harding at [email protected].

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is GCASA’s publicist.


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