Herald-Whig View

United effort needed to combat drugs, alcohol

Posted: Oct. 6, 2017 8:55 am

DRUG and alcohol use among local youths is on the rise, and the community is responding.

Specifically, some new partners joined the response effort when the Adams County Substance Abuse Coalition met last month. Triena Larsen, who works with the coalition through the Adams County Health Department, said representatives from several community groups and organizations are offering support to reverse recent trends.

The 2016 Illinois Youth Survey showed that 50 percent of Adams County 12th-graders used alcohol in the past year, 25 percent used tobacco products and 24 percent used cannabis. In addition, 21 percent admitted to consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting at least one time within the past two weeks, behavior classified as binge drinking.

Larsen and others were especially concerned that use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol has climbed in recent years. At one point the annual survey showed a 5 percent decrease in teen smoking and an 11 percent decrease in teen drinking in Adams County. However, the trend started to change after a huge decrease in funding for anti-drug efforts.

"There used to be a $35,000 grant that helped us reach these youth. Now we get around a $4,000 or $5,000 grant that is all tobacco-oriented. We can't touch on opioids, heroin or meth," Larsen said. "Our kids are still smoking, still using tobacco products. Now they're starting to add in a little of the extras with the cannabis, and we'll probably start seeing more of a rise in the opioid usage."

In order to reverse the negative trends, the Substance Abuse Coalition is following a template that has been successful elsewhere. The University of Kansas came up with a system that brings in support from 12 sectors: youths, parents, businesses, media, schools, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement, religious or fraternal organizations, civic and volunteer groups, health care, state or local governments, and other organizations involved in reducing substance abuse.

"We're trying to get more youth on board. Youth is a key focus for us," Larsen said.

Several of those local sectors already have agreed to help, but other partners are needed to combat this national and community problem.

It clearly will take a united effort to wage a successful fight against underage use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

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