Local Data on Substance Use Declines
The Missouri Student Survey is conducted on even-numbered years and tracks risky behaviors of students in grades 6-12 attending public and private schools in Missouri. The survey, conducted jointly by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri Department of Mental Health, asks youth a variety of questions on health and safety issues. County summaries of the 2020 results are available to view here.
From the summary view, the new data is uplifting. Youth across Clay, Platte and Ray Counties are using alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes, and marijuana at rates lower than the state average. The past 30-day use rates of these substances is also lower than what was reported in 2018. At Parent Up, we are excited to see this downward trend! We can celebrate that our youth are using fewer substances and that our prevention programs are working to make a difference.
Substance Use Harms Young Brains and Can Lead to Addiction
On the other hand, we still have plenty of work to do to protect area youth. A study from the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse found that 9 out of 10 people who are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs began using these substances in their teen years. This statistic is backed by science and research that reveals the vulnerability of the adolescent brain to substance use. Because the human brain is not fully developed until the mid-20s, vaping, drinking alcohol, using marijuana or misusing medications during the teen years can disrupt and damage brain development. Substance use prior to age 18 is linked to an increased likelihood of brain damage, addiction, and mental illness such as depression or suicidal ideation.
Preventing the Disease of Addiction
Prevention science points to multiple strategies that prevent the early use of alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs. Policies that reduce availability and marketing of substances to youth are important in reducing access to youth. Strong community and family attitudes and expectations that discourage underage use are also proven to decrease the chances that a child will begin using alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or prescription drugs in the teen years. Establishing strong relationships and connection between teens and adults, providing opportunities for healthy risk, and monitoring and supervision are also proven to decrease the likelihood that a child will engage in risky behaviors like substance use. These strategies,especially when coupled together, will help ensure that youth substance use rates continue to decline. Follow along this year at Parent Up as we work to ensure that parents and our community CARE, CONNECT, COMMUNICATE and pay CAREFUL attention to our kids so that we can delay the age of first use of alcohol and other drugs, and protect future generations from the devastation that comes from addiction!