Underage drinking in county decreasing

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The Center for Prevention and Counseling has been committed to providing evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout Sussex County for over 40 years. Since 2006, the Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities, a program of CFPC, in collaboration with participating Sussex County school districts, has conducted a survey of students in grades 6-12 on their attitudes and behaviors regarding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Data collected helps in the evaluation of current drug prevention programs and assesses the need for new or modified evidence based programs.

Underage Drinking rates have decreased by 13% since 2012 among students in 6-12 grade according to Pride 2017 data. Sussex County continues to see a decrease in reported “use within the last year” among most grades, with the exception of students in grades 9 and 10 where there has been a 15 percent increase in students reporting having used alcohol in the last year. Parents are the #1 reason kids choose to not use alcohol and the survey revealed 95 percent of Sussex County students in grades 6-12 reported that their parents disapprove of underage drinking. Parents talking early and talking often about underage drinking is an important prevention strategy. CFPC continues to provide prevention programs and services that address the consequences of underage drinking and strengthen resiliency within youth.

Despite legalization of recreational use of marijuana being in the forefront of media, marijuana use among youth in Sussex County has remained relatively unchanged since 2015 with 11.6 percent of 6-12 grade students reporting that they had used marijuana within the last year. Notably, data revealed students in grades eighth, 11th and 12th had a nearly 30 percent decrease in reported past annual use (2015-2017 PRIDE) while 9th and 10th grade students saw an 24 percent increase in past annual use. Sussex County 12th-graders reported use of marijuana in the last year stands at 28 percent which is below the national average of 37 percent according to Monitoring the Future, 2017. Additionally, 64 percent of Sussex County 6th–12th-grade students perceive marijuana use as harmful, which is up 14 percent since 2011. CFPC will continue to provide education to youth as well as adults and community stakeholders pertaining to the impacts of marijuana use on adolescent development as well as the impacts upon the workplace, roadways and environment.

Prescription drug misuse, defined as using a medication prescribed for someone else, continues to be an area of concern within the Sussex County community. The PRIDE data revealed that prescription drug misuse among Sussex County youth is not escalating in most grades as only 4 percent of students in grades 6th–12th reported misusing prescriptions within the last year. However, an area of concern was seen with sixth-grade students where 2.6 percent of sixth-grade students reported using someone else’s prescription medication within the last year compared to only 1 percent reported use in 2015. A positive trend revealed was a 61 percent decrease since 2010 in 12th graders misusing prescription medications. Continued education regarding prescription drug misuse including the use of opioid pain medication is paramount for students to effectively reduce the addiction epidemic Sussex County is experiencing. CFPC continues to provide support to Sussex County schools by utilizing science-based prevention education to students, school staff and parents.

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