Across the nation, state, and our very own Addison County community, we are witnessing a surge in substance abuse. Substance abuse results in increased deaths, broken families, and an increase in poverty. From opioid addiction to alcohol misuse, our community is facing an uphill climb against substance abuse and the health and wellness of Addison County.
Substance abuse has a widespread impact and can affect more than the people who are misusing it and their families. While there are many risk factors in determining how likely someone is to develop a substance use disorder, youth (those under the age of 21) are most vulnerable. In 2019, Vermont high schoolers were asked about high-risk behaviors over the last 30 days, and this is what they said. 31% drank alcohol, 15% binged alcohol (5+ drinks in a row), 6% drove after drinking, 26% had used a vape, 27% had used cannabis, 14% drove after using cannabis¹. Using cannabis while driving has been shown to be more than double the risk of getting into an accident². Each year, around 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related causes, which is more than all other illegal drugs combined². Children whose parents have conversations with them about the risks of substance misuse are significantly less likely to use substances².
One of the largest contributing factors to substance abuse is problems with emotional or mental wellbeing. There are many factors that affect emotional and mental wellbeing such as family history, lack of financial stability, exposure to violence, chronic illness, learning disabilities, social isolation, and pressure from family or peers. “The rule of thumb is that almost half of the kids with mental health disorders if they’re not treated, will end up having a substance use disorder,” explains Sarper Taskiran, MD, a child, and adolescent psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute. A 2016 study of 10,000 adolescents found that two-thirds of those who developed alcohol or substance use disorders had experienced at least one mental health disorder.”³ Checking in with children regularly, and having open conversations with kids can help them navigate their feelings and overall well-being. You can also help them to see that using substances comes with many risks and downsides.
October is Substance Abuse Prevention Month, spread awareness by having conversations with your friends and families, especially the youth in your life about the dangers of substance abuse.
For more information on youth substance prevention, please sign up for our prevention coalition monthly newsletter.
For more information on the advocacy efforts in the Addison County community, please sign up for our advocacy newsletter.
For more parenting tools and tips and resources regarding youth substance use and more, you can visit parentupvt.org.