Survey results presented on drug, alcohol use among Lyme-Old Lyme youths

Old Lyme — Alcohol remains overall to be the primary drug used by Lyme-Old Lyme youths, according to the results of a 2015 survey presented at a community forum Tuesday.    

But while alcohol use has either declined or remained the same as in previous years, marijuana use is on the rise, particularly among sophomores, juniors and seniors, the presentation showed.

The Community Action for Substance Free Youth presented the results of the survey, conducted along with the Lymes' Youth Service Bureau and Lyme-Old Lyme Schools, of youths from grades seven to twelve, at Tuesday’s forum at Lyme-Old Lyme High School.

The survey found that 29.7 percent of high school students have used alcohol in their life, similar to results from the last survey in 2013. Students reporting to have used alcohol within the past 30 days slightly declined from 2013.

Mary Seidner, the director of LYSB, said more students are reporting that it is risky to binge drink than in the last survey. She said consistently the top reason cited by students for refraining from alcohol is not wanting to disappoint their parents.

But marijuana use among high-school students has increased over 2011 and 2013 levels. The survey found that marijuana use was uncommon among middle-school students, but that 23 percent of sophomores, 30 percent of juniors and 37 percent of seniors have used marijuana in their lives.

Some age groups, such as sophomores and juniors, have a higher rate of marijuana use than alcohol use in the past 30 days, said Karen Fischer, CASFY's prevention coordinator.

Fischer said a positive trend is that the average age for first use of marijuana has risen to 14.5 from 14 in 2013, as fewer younger students are using marijuana.

"However, we are kind of stuck at an age between 14 and 15 for kids having their average first use of any substance," she said, "and we know from research that a kid who starts using at age 15 or younger has a much higher chance of developing a problem with substance abuse or even addiction, so we have to work as a community to move that age up."

The survey found that misuse of prescription drugs has decreased, with about 79 percent of youths surveyed reporting that they were either “sort of hard” or “very hard” to obtain, compared to about 74 percent in 2013.

The survey also found that illicit drug use has declined.

The presentation cited figures on the correlation between different substances, including that young men who have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days are five times more likely to have used marijuana, while young women who have recently consumed alcohol are seven times more likely to have used marijuana.

Young men that have used marijuana in the past 30 days are 18 times more likely to have used illicit drugs, while young women who have recently used marijuana are 14 times more likely to have used illicit drugs.

"Here's the takeaway from tonight: youths who do not use alcohol are highly unlikely to use something else," said Fischer.

About 60 people attended the forum, including parents, school administrators, Old Lyme resident state Trooper Gary Inglis, state Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, and State Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Saybrook.

After the presentation, a panel of eight Lyme-Old Lyme High School students answered questions from the audience.

k.drelich@theday.com

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