Youth in Snohomish County making healthier choices
The first part of Washington's 2016 Healthy Youth Survey has been released, showing some drops in teen drug and substance use.
According to the Snohomish Health District, thirteen of the school districts in Snohomish County participated in the surveys distributed last October, adding up to 14,630 sixth-, eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders whose answers shed some light around the health of our youth.
Many figures continued downward trends that have been consistent for the past few years.
About 63.7 percent of high school seniors said that they had tried alcohol at least once, but that is down from 69.8 percent in 2010.
The amount of 10th-graders who said they had consumed alcohol in the last month was 18.6 percent, which is an all-time low for the survey.
For comparison, in 2002 that number was 34.1 percent.
Traditional cigarettes are on the decline for local seniors as well.
The number of seniors who said they currently smoke was 19.2 percent in 2010 but that number has become nearly half in 2016 at 10.6 percent.
"Anecdotally, when you increase the interventions available you're going to decrease drug use," said Josh Webb, director of counseling and student support at the Marysville School District.
The Marysville district has been able to increase counselors and other support for students in the last couple of years because of grant funds and Webb said that does have a tangible effect for youth.
Staff, like Madysen Pruss, Marysville-Pilchuck High School's student assistance professional, our able to provide support, said Webb.
They also bring a variety of programs to the school to help.
"We all have different prevention clubs as well which are dedicated to helping promote a drug-free culture," said Pruss.
Pruss said she also helps parents with how to look for signs of drug abuse and helps connect students to addiction programs and support if that is needed.
The general curriculum also helps students, said Webb.
"We incorporate good curriculum for our health classes. We strive to make sure our regular general ed. covers those topics," he said.
Webb also said that schools are far from the only determinant for students and their drug use though.
"There are a lot of factors that go beyond the school that go into how much kids are using drugs," he said.
Things like availability of access determine how much drug use goes on as well, he said.
Pruss said it was a good move from Marysville to keep out marijuana dispensaries from the city limits.
The survey showed that marijuana use has remained relatively consistent over the last few years. In 2010 44.1 percent of seniors reported that they had tried marijuana at least once, and in 2016 that number was 44.5 percent.
Perception of access has decreased though. In 2010, 68.8 percent of seniors said it would be easy to get marijuana if they wanted it, while in 2016 that was reduced to 39.7 percent.
Around 3.6 percent of seniors reported they had stolen or purchased marijuana at a store though.
E-cigarettes/vapor pens is one of the few substances that is likely on the rise since 2010.
The devices which burn a liquid substance that contains nicotine have been increasing in popularity the last several years.
In 2014 it was the first time the survey measured e-cigarette use and 22.1 percent of seniors reported they currently one. In 2016 that number showed a slight decrease with 20.2 percent of seniors.
Because e-cigarettes are new there is a lot of confusion about the exact dangers though, said Pruss.
"Many see it as being a no-risk product," said Pruss. "We want to change that perception. Because although there can be slightly less nicotine, there is still risk."
There is also a higher risk of a nicotine overdose in some instances, she said.
Vapor pen use is easier to conceal with very little signs of use as well, said Webb, making them harder for parents and district staff to combat.
The reported numbers of those using heroin or painkillers to get high saw moderate reductions.
In 2014, 5.7 percent of seniors reported using heroin and that became 3.2 percent in the most recent survey.
About 7.6 percent of students said they currently used a prescription drug not prescribed to them.
Pruss said she hopes a heavy focus remains on prescription drugs.
"That's really where the most overdoses come from," she said. "From opioids, which includes the prescription drug abuse," she said.
Webb said that they remain one of the more dangerous drugs when it comes to addiction.
"People say that pot is a gateway drug, and the studies don't necessarily bare that out, and when you look at it the true gateway drug is prescription drugs," he said.
Webb said that he hoped that the public would support school funding in any way they could to encourage support for students.
"Madysen's position and my position are grant funded, so if that grant goes away, those positions could too," said Webb.
He also said that positions like school resources officers can be difficult to fund but do make a difference.
"They are a huge resource when it comes to preventing drug dealers from getting on campus or putting a stop to students dealing drugs," he said.
More information about the Healthy Youth Survey is available at snohd.org.
Highlights from the 2016 Healthy Youth Survey
The 2016 Healthy Youth Survey shows:
• Current use among Snohomish County teens dropped 39% since 2006.
• Use at an all-time low, 18.6% of 10th-graders reporting use in the last month compared to 34.1% in 2002.
• Snohomish County 10th-graders were significantly more likely than peers statewide to find binge drinking to be a "great risk" of harm - 60.7% locally compared to 55.0% across Washington.
• Tenth-graders less likely to participate in "problem drinking" behaviors (3-5 days of alcohol consumption in the last month and/or one binge episode in the last 2 weeks).
• Use among youth in the state remains constant, despite changes in legalization.
• Use by 10th-graders down from 16% in 2014 to 15.5% in 2016.
• Nearly 1 out of 4 seniors believe it is "very wrong" for someone their age to be using marijuana (28.3%).
• The number of seniors who said it would be "very hard" to get marijuana if they wanted to significantly • Icreased, from 14.8% in 2014 to 20.6% in 2016.
Tobacco and Vaping:
• Hookah use declined significantly in the state and county across all grades surveyed.
• Vapor and e-cigarette use decreased significantly among 10th-graders between 2014 and 2016.
• Nearly twice as many 10th-graders are vaping than smoking cigarettes; 11.3% reported vaping compared to 6.7% who reported using cigarettes.
• In 2016, 20.2% of 12th-graders reported use of a vape product in the past month.
• Significantly fewer 12th-graders reported ever using heroin in 2016 (3.2%) than in 2014 (5.7%).
nSnohomish County eighth-grade students reported ever trying meth at lower numbers compared to the state average, 2.1% locally compared to 2.9% statewide.
• Since 2006, both current painkiller abuse by 10th-graders and 12th-graders have decreased by at least half, 10.6% down to 4% for sophomores and 13.6% down to 5% for seniors.
Information provided by the Snohomish Health District.