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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 9:50 am | Fair 58º


Harris Sherline: Report Sheds Light on Youth Drug Use in Santa Ynez Valley

The data may surprise you, and parents especially are in a strong position to make a difference

The Santa Ynez Valley Youth Coalition recently released a “Community Report” for the years 2005 through 2011. It is packed with interesting and informative facts about drug use and abuse in the valley.

The following are some of the highlights:

Juvenile Arrests and Citations in Buellton, Santa Ynez and Solvang

» Alcohol-related: Buellton 2, Santa Ynez 3 and Solvang 4

» Marijuana-related: Buellton 8, Santa Ynez 9 and Solvang 5

» Tobacco-related: Buellton 4, Santa Ynez 6 and Solvang 7

» Other drug: Buellton 2

Alcohol Retail Outlets

» In 2005: Buellton 40, Los Olivos 14, Santa Ynez 22 and Solvang 51

» In 2011: Buellton 38, Los Olivos 25, Santa Ynez 31 and Solvang 53

“The data ... indicates that the number of ninth-grade students using alcohol, marijuana or other drugs within 30 days of taking the California Healthy Kids Survey has declined between 2006 and 2010, from 30 percent to 16 percent,” the report states. “Among the youth that were using, alcohol and marijuana use also declined during this 2006 and 2010 time period.

“Other local data, however, reflects the national trend that teens perceive alcohol and marijuana as less harmful than they truly are.

“Drinking and driving is one of the major causes of death and injury among teens. This is because smaller increases in BAC (blood-alcohol content) have been shown to have more devastating effects on young drivers. For each 0.02 percentincrease in BAC, adolescents under age 21 have a much greater risk of being in a fatal motor-vehicle crash than adults ages 21 and older. ... The good news for the valley is this: According to the California Healthy Kids Survey, ninth-grade drinking and driving, or riding with someone who has been drinking, has declined between 2006 and 2010.

“... Research indicates that parents who allow their teens to drink in their home because they think it is safer than letting their teen drive are, in fact, promoting consumption outside of the home.

“Today’s pot is 10 times stronger than in the 1970s and more addictive. Research indicates that marijuana causes significantly more damage to cells and DNA than tobacco smoke, and one joint negatively affects the lungs as much as smoking four cigarettes would. Other studies show that repeated exposure to marijuana interferes with learning and memory. Furthermore, a vulnerable person may experience a paranoid or psychotic episode. One long-term study of adolescents and young adults found that those who had never used marijuana and had no symptoms of psychosis at the start of the study nearly doubled their risk of future psychotic symptoms if they began using marijuana.

“Despite these facts, 20.8 percent of parents in a CASA survey of parents of high school students characterize marijuana as a harmless drug. Peter Delaney of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states, ‘Some parents are uncomfortable telling their kids not to smoke pot because they have used it themselves. Parents need to make it clear that marijuana is harmful and risky.’”

The perception of harm from smoking marijuana once or twice a week declined from 95 percent to 5 percent in 2006, from 74 percent to 27 percent in 2008 and from 72 percent to 28 percent in 2010.

“Nationwide, there is an alarming increase in the use of prescription drugs, and once again, the valley is no different. The drugs being used include painkillers, stimulants such as Adderall, barbiturates and many others, some of which may have come from your own medicine or kitchen cabinet!”

Ninth-Grade Use of Illegal Drugs — Age on Onset

» Age 10 or younger — 2 percent in 2006, 7 percent in 2008 and 2 percent in 2010

» Ages 11 to 12 — 7 percent in 2006, 4 percent in 2008 and 3 percent in 2010

» Ages 13 to 14 — 8 percent in 2006, 12 percent in 2008 and 8 percent in 2010

» Ages 15 to 16 — 1 percent in 2006, 3 percent in 2008 and 1 percent in 2010

“Countless research studies and SYV Youth Coalition surveys tell us over and over again that parents are the single strongest influence on their teens’ choices to smoke, drink or use other drugs. Parents must recognize that substance use is a real and present threat to their teens’ health, safety and future and take steps to prevent it. It is not uncommon for parents to say, ‘Not my child,’ since early experimentation doesn’t come with ‘red flag’ warning signs. A survey by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America indicates that 73 percent of teens were using drugs to cope with stress while only 7 percent of the parents believed their child might use drugs to cope with stress.”

There is a great deal more valuable information in the Youth Coalition’s Community Report than can possibly be included in this article.

I encourage everyone to log on to the coalition’s Web site at www.suvdrugfree.org or email the coalition at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.

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