By Christy Smith
Do you know what risky behaviors Unicoi County middle and high school students are participating in? When was the first time a Unicoi County youth initiated substance use?
These are questions I ask at meetings, health fairs, and community forums. I ask parents because most are unsure and scared to know the answer.
Unicoi County youth try or initiate alcohol, nicotine including e-cigarettes, marijuana, and prescription drugs at the age of 13.
Every two years the Unicoi County Prevention Coalition conducts a TN Together Student Survey that assesses alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) use, attitudes, and behaviors among eighth, 10th, and 12th grade students. The survey asks lifetime use, past 30-day use, availability and access to substances, parent and peer disapproval, friend substance use experiences, perception of risk and personal disapproval.
The highest results are as follows for the 2018-19 survey:
48 percent of students reported using electronic cigarettes in the past month which is the highest rate.
39 percent of students used marijuana in the last month.
12.8 percent of students used multiple drug types such as alcohol and tobacco.
25 percent of eighth graders and 53 percent 10th graders received alcohol by giving money to someone to buy it for them.
Only 34 percent of students believe electronic cigarette use is a great risk while 61 percent believe cigarettes is a greater risk. E-cigs are causing quicker health problems like collapsed lungs and respiratory problems among youth. While both cause lung disease, cancer, and COPD.
There are of course more important data that can be discussed. Unicoi County youth are using e-cigarettes and marijuana more than alcohol and prescription drugs. Parents also perceive e-cigarettes and marijuana as a less risky behavior.
We must change the culture of perception in order to reach our youth and parents. We must educate on dangers to the body and brain. Substance abuse can cause depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal thoughts, and addiction in youth. Their brain does not quit growing until they are 25 years of age.
The more you know about addiction and substance abuse, the less likely your child will initiate. TALK ABOUT IT!
If you would like more information on the coalition, call 735-8407. Anyone in the community can stop by the office at 105 Rock Creek Road Ste. 4 anytime to talk with me. Next month we will TALK ABOUT IT! How to start a conversation with your child.
Until next time stay safe and healthy.