SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Survey finds most Alaska high school students underestimate the risk of prescription opioids  


November 14, 2017
Tuesday PM

(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska - The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services recently released its 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results, and finds teens’ opinions around prescription and illicit drug use concerning.

Tatsuda's IGA - Ketchikan, Alaska
Weekly Specials
Online Shopping; Pickup or Delivery

Lighthouse Service - Ketchikan, Alaska - Tesoro Gas Station, Mechanical Services, Coooper Tires

Less than half of Alaska high school students report they think taking prescription drugs, including opioid pain medications, without a doctor’s prescription or using the medication differently than prescribed is a serious risk. Seven percent of high school students report use of prescription drugs, including opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin, without a doctor’s prescription or differently than prescribed during the past month. Nearly two percent of Alaska teens currently use heroin.

“The more we know about the opinions and behaviors of Alaska teens, the better we can respond with relevant information about prescription opioid use,” said Dr. Jay Butler, Chief Medical Officer for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Using pain medication like Vicodin or OxyContin without a prescription can be extremely dangerous. Our department is working diligently with local agencies and schools to provide teens and their families with accurate information about the safe use and disposal of prescription opioids.”

In addition to prescription opioid use, preliminary YRBS results show that Alaska high school students see low risk in using marijuana. Most high school students (66 percent) believe there is minimal or no risk in using marijuana weekly. Among students who drive, 16 percent admitted to driving after using marijuana. 

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey results showed some positive behavior changes among Alaska teens, including decreases in cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and sexual activity during the past decade. When comparing survey findings from 2007 and 2017, a greater percentage of high school students in 2017 feel that their teachers care about and encourage them.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey was developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is conducted every other year in most states. Alaska first conducted the survey in 1995. The survey is administered by the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). It is anonymous, voluntary, and conducted with parental consent. Results are used to identify emerging health concerns and changes in behaviors over time, and to inform programs aimed at improving the health of Alaska teens.

In 2017, DHSS surveyed 1,332 students from 40 high schools across the state. Schools were selected to represent all public  high schools, excluding boarding schools, alternative schools, correspondence and home study schools, and correctional schools. Results are statistically representative of Alaska students grades 9-12 in traditional public high schools.

Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey results are also used to measure eight of the 25 Healthy Alaskans 2020 leading health priorities. Healthy Alaskans 2020 is a health improvement plan led by DHSS and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium that brings together statewide partners to improve the health of all Alaskans.



On the Web:

Detailed YRBS results

Information on Alaska’s strategies to prevent opioid misuse

Information on Alaska’s marijuana laws



Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services



Representations of fact and opinions in comments posted are solely those of the individual posters and do not represent the opinions of Sitnews.


Submit A Letter to SitNews

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2017
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

 Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews may be protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.