CACTC touches on student alcohol and drug use; impact of COVID-19

The Cortland Area Communities That Care organization recently broke down results from the 2020 Cortland County Youth Survey.

The survey touched on topics including alcohol, vaping & tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs, mental health & suicide, family risk & protective factors, school risk & protective factors, individual risk & protective factors, access to alcohol and other drugs, impact of COVID-19 and bullying.

The survey was taken by 7th-12th grade students in the county.

For a full rundown of the results from the survey, go to


In a three-year trend between 2018 and 2020, 30-40% of students have had a lifetime use of alcohol. About 20% of the students reported they’ve had at least one day of alcohol use in the past 30 days, and roughly 10% are involved in binge drinking.

Percentages for past 30-day use between 2019 and 2020 dipped in some grades: 7th grade (5-5.1%), 8th (13.8-6.9%), 9th (17.9-16.7%), 10th (28.6-18.9%), 11th (34.5-30.6%) and 12th (37.4-36.2%).

The perception of risk with alcohol use was at 62.7%. Disapproval of a friend and a parent was 95.2% and 84.7%, respectively.

Vaping & Tobacco

The three-year trend saw a decline in past 30-day use for vaping (21.9-13.9%) and tobacco (4.4-3.2%). In terms of lifetime use of cigarettes, the percentage went from 15.8-11.7%.

Percentages for past 30-day use between 2019 and 2020 decreased in a majority of the grades: 7th (5.2-3.6%), 8th (18.4-4.9%), 9th (15.1-15.6%), 10th (24.4-14.6%), 11th (30.9-27.3%) and 12th (30.3-24.2%).

The perception of risk with vaping and smoking was 74.3 and 72.8%, respectively. Disapproval of a friend and parent was separately 89 and 96.9%.


The three-year trend for marijuana use was between 20 and 17%. As for past 30-day use, the percentages went from 13.9 to 10%.

Percentages for 30-day use in each grade mostly fell between 2019 and 2020: 7th (2.5-2%), 8th (11.5-4%), 9th (9.6-13%), 10th (20.7-9.8%), 11th (25.3-21.8%) and 12th (24.5-16.4%).

The perception of risk with marijuana use is 48.5%. Disapproval percentages between a parent and a friend is 89.7 and 76.5%, respectively.

Prescription Drugs

The three-year trend with prescription drugs saw a small increase and decrease. The lifetime use went from 3.6 to 2.9%, and the past 30-day went from 1.1-1.2%.

Percentages of usage for each grade varied: 7th (2.5-1.8%), 8th (2.6-1.2%), 9th (2.7-3%), 10th (3-2.5%), 11th (5.3-3.6%) and 12th (4-1%).

The perception of risk with prescription drug use was 82.5%. Disapproval of a friend and a parent was between 96-98%.

Mental Health & Suicide

The three-year trend shows students who contemplated suicide went from 24 to 22%. Students who actually attempted suicide in that span went from 10 to 8%. Overall depressive symptoms dipped from 19.1 to 18.1%.

Percentages when it came to thoughts of suicide in each grade was split: 7th (22.7-19.6%), 8th (27.9-20.7%), 9th (23-25.7%), 10th (25.1-26.3%), 11th (25.9-20.8%) and 12th (22.5-23%).

A poll in terms of student depression was put together. Percentages included 25.3% who thought they were failures, 37.4% didn’t think they were any good, 34.6% felt sad or depressed at points in the past year, and 28.4% think life isn’t worth it.

Family Risk & Protective Factors

Protective factors include family attachment, prosocial involvement and rewards for prosocial involvement.

As for risk factors, family conflict, history of antisocial behavior and management problems were listed.

Between 70-80% of students say they feel close to their mothers and fathers. Roughly 50-60% of those students share thoughts and feelings with their parents.

Prosocial involvement with situations like resolving personal problems, family decisions revolved around a student and students spending time with their parents ranged from 60-80%. The enjoyment of students spending time with their mother or father was between 82-88%.

Family conflict when it comes to serious arguments and the same arguments that repeat itself, including insults with family members, ranged from 31-41% between 2019 and 2020.

Antisocial behavior was directed to drug and alcohol use — and roughly 20-38% of students saw it as an issue in their families.

Management problems touched on lack of communication and poor decision making, and between 70-92% of students said each occurs in their families.

School Risk & Protective Factors

Protective factors for school balanced between opportunities and rewards for prosocial involvement. For opportunities, between 60-90% of students are involved in classrooms, engage in classroom discussion and have one-on-one conversations with teachers.

Roughly 50-80% of those students receive praise or say they’re doing a good job on school work, and also say the school recognizes accomplishments to their parents.

About 69-96% of students believe schoolwork is meaningful, enjoyable, important and take an interest in the subjects.

Individual/Peer Risk & Protective Factors

Protective factors include belief in the moral order and prosocial involvement. About 4% of students think it’s OK to take something without asking, 22.3% think it’s OK to cheat in school, 36% think it’s OK to beat up other students if they start the fight and 86.5% think it’s important to be honest with their parents if they get in conflicting situations.

About 38-64% of students have looked forward to volunteering/community service, and joining and participating in clubs/organizations/activities.

Risk factors include favorable attitudes with antisocial behavior and towards drug use. Between 69-93% considered starting a fight or seriously hurting someone at school, skipping school and stealing something worth more than $5.

In terms of drug use, a percentage range of 78-92% of students wanted to either drink alcohol regularly, and smoke cigarettes and marijuana.

Access to Alcohol & Other Drugs

Percentages show how hard it is for students to get access to alcohol and drugs: alcohol (59.6%), cigarettes (71.7%), cocaine/LSD/amphetamines (90.9%), marijuana (68.1%) and prescription pain relievers (87.1%).

Impact of COVID-19

Percentages show the consequences faced from the impact of COVID-19:

  • 53.3% of students had to cancel or miss events that were important to them
  • 52.6% have felt more stressed about school than usual
  • 40.4% have felt more anxious than usual
  • 31.5% have felt more depressed than usual
  • 23.5% said the pandemic has not impacted them
  • 14.4% have had to take care of their younger siblings
  • 6.9% have had one or both parents lose their jobs


Percentages include variations of bullying. About 20.2% of students have bullied not on school property, however, 23.3% have been bullied on school property.

Roughly 22% have been bullied electronically, and over 7% have bullied someone else.