More county students making smarter, healthier choices

Healthy Youth Survey shows substance use compared to prior years
By Nicholas Johnson | May 03, 2017

Drinking among teens in Snohomish County has fallen by nearly 40 percent since 2006, according to the first set of data released from the 2016 Healthy Youth Survey.

The statewide survey conducted by the state Department of Social and Health Services every two years asks a variety of questions about substance use, safety behaviors, diet, physical and mental well-being, and school atmosphere.

Some 13 school districts in the county participated in the survey distributed last October. That adds up to 14,630 students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12.

Some 18.6 percent of tenth graders reported using alcohol in the last month, compared with 34.1 percent in 2002.

Snohomish County tenth graders were significantly less likely than their peers statewide – 60.7 percent compared with 55 percent – to consider binge drinking a “great risk.” They were also less likely to participate in “problem drinking” behaviors, such as 3-5 days of alcohol consumption in the last month or one binge episode in the past two weeks.

In spite of the state’s marijuana legalization more than two years ago, marijuana use among young people remains relatively constant. Reported use by tenth graders fell from 16 percent in 2014 to 15.5 percent in 2016.

More than 1 out of 4 high school seniors, or 28.3 percent, believe it is “very wrong” for someone their age to be using marijuana.

The number of seniors who said it would be “very hard” to get marijuana if they wanted to significantly increased – from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 20.6 percent in 2016.

Hookah use declined significantly across all grades statewide, while vapor and e-cigarette use decreased significantly among tenth graders between 2014 and 2016.

Nearly twice as many tenth graders are vaping than smoking cigarettes, with 11.3 percent reporting vapor use compared to 6.7 percent reporting cigarette use. Some 20.2 percent of seniors reported using a vape product in the past month.

Regarding other drugs, reported heroin use fell from 5.7 percent in 2014 to 3.2 percent in 2016. Some 2.1 percent of eighth graders in the county reported ever trying meth, compared to 2.9 percent statewide.

Abuse of painkillers by tenth and twelfth graders has fallen by more than half since 2006 – from 10.6 percent to 4 percent for sophomores and 13.6 percent to 5 percent for seniors.

Data from the survey is used by the Snohomish Health District to direct prevention efforts.

Current programs include youth tobacco and marijuana prevention, which involves educating middle and high school students, working with schools on curriculum and discipline policies, and increasing community awareness and knowledge.

Staff also advocate for policy changes, such as smoke- and vape-free parks and distance between marijuana retailers. Efforts have included a vaping prevention campaign on Community Transit buses and current ads for the state Department of Health’s “Listen 2 Your Selfie” marijuana prevention campaign running prior to movies at the Regal Alderwood Stadium 7 theater in Lynnwood.

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