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Is driving high the new drinking and driving for Ontario teens?

Watch the video above: Is driving high the new drinking and driving? Crystal Goomansingh reports. 

TORONTO – Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes is at an all-time low among Ontario teens but don’t celebrate yet – a new survey is noticing an alarming trend of high school students getting high and then driving.

The latest findings from CAMH – Toronto’s Centre for Mental Health and Addiction – questions whether smoking weed and driving is the new drinking-and-driving health concern.

“The number of students who report using cannabis and driving has remained the same in recent years which tells us that students do not take the potential dangers of driving while under the influence seriously,” Dr. Robert Mann, a CAMH senior scientist and the study’s principal investigator, said.

“The public health messages around the dangers of drinking and driving seem to have had an impact on our youth but the same can’t be said for cannabis use, which is worrisome,” Mann said.

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READ MORE: Alcohol advertising linked to ‘increased’ drinking in adolescent girls, Canadian doctor warns

The report is based on CAMH’s latest Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey that includes 10,272 students from grades 7 to 12 from across the province. It’s Canada’s longest-running systematic study of alcohol and drug use among youth and even one of the longest-running surveys in the world, CAMH says.

Among the findings:

–          One in eight – or 120,000 students – reported taking prescription opioid pain medication recreationally within the past year, and the majority of these teens found these drugs at home

–          About one per cent – or 13,500 students – used stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD without a prescription

–          About 10 per cent of students used over-the-counter cough medication to “get high” – this trend also increased year over year

–          One in six high school students said they had a drug-use problem (that’s 132,700 teens)

READ MORE: Could personality in childhood predict how teens will respond to drinking?

Fifty per cent of Ontario students reported drinking in the past year – that’s an all-time low in the province. The trouble is, teens may be drinking less, but when they do, they’re doing so in dangerous ways.

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One in five students said they took up binge drinking at least once in the past month and one in five also said they drank so much, they’d black out. Eight per cent of students said they were injured or hurt others while they were drunk.

Nearly 20 per cent of students say they were even a passenger in a car driven by someone who had been drinking. About four per cent of teens with a G-class driver’s license admitted that they were behind the wheel within an hour after drinking two or more drinks.

READ MORE: Teens’ drinking habits influenced by Hollywood movies: study

It was even worse for smoking weed: one in 10 teens said they would drive within an hour of getting high.

Students may have given up cigarettes compared to previous years but they’re picking up waterpipes and electronic cigarettes.

In October, the Canadian Cancer Society warned that more than half of Canadian high school students said they’ve tried smoking flavoured tobacco products.

READ MORE: Candy-flavoured tobacco products enticing Canadian students to take up smoking, survey says

It called on provincial health officials to ban these products that come in bright packaging and flavours such as watermelon, chocolate or strawberry, for young smokers.

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carmen.chai@globalnews.ca