Monday, December 22, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;32.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/novc.png;2014-12-22 04:51:22
Sunday, June 29, 2014

Prevention efforts target NH youths

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles highlighting substance abuse by New Hampshire’s youngest residents. You will find a section of the paper –
where you would usually find our Sunday Magazine – dedicated to an issue surrounding youth substance abuse and prevention. This month, the focus is on underage drinking.

The statistics are not good, particularly because the problem is so real. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles highlighting substance abuse by New Hampshire’s youngest residents. You will find a section of the paper –
where you would usually find our Sunday Magazine – dedicated to an issue surrounding youth substance abuse and prevention. This month, the focus is on underage drinking.

The statistics are not good, particularly because the problem is so real.

That’s what Jennifer Cusato, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Hampshire, says about the level of substance abuse by Granite State “teens and tweens”

It’s also why her agency launched its Check the Stats campaign this year – because years of surveys, studies and research have shown over and again just how poorly New Hampshire is doing at educating and preventing drug and alcohol abuse among teens and tweens.

A full 20 percent of kids who responded to the state’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey said they had their first alcoholic drink when they were 13 or 14. Another 20 percent said they were 15 or 16.

Nearly as many – 17 percent – said it would be “very easy” to get a drug such as OxyContin without a prescription. More than 19 percent said it would be “sort of easy.”

About 10 percent of teenagers said they had used marijuana in the past month.

Experts know the stats. But the same research shows parents don’t.

“We believe there’s a misconception that because New Hampshire is a great state … parents don’t realize that these issues exist,” Cusato said. “We’re trying to break through that barrier. That’s kind of a tall order.”

What has grabbed headlines in recent months – along with the attention of law enforcement officials and state and federal lawmakers – is heroin.

While heroin, along with opioid prescription drugs, can have deadly consequences, experts say that to some extent, it’s the flavor of the month. They also say the way to attack it is by starting at the source – by educating about the perils and limiting the access kids have to alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs.

“Heroin is what happens down the road. The vast majority of addicts start as kids,” Cusato said. “They start with one of those three, typically. Then they move on to something else and then they move on to heroin.”

With the Check the Stats campaign – Checkthe
StatsNH.org
– Cusato said the partnership is trying to take a longer view, to increase parents’ knowledge about the level of substance abuse by teenagers as a first step toward preventing that abuse.

“This is step one. We have to start somewhere,” said Tym Rourke, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s director of substance use disorders.

The tact the partnership is taking with the campaign is one of the reasons the charitable foundation is helping fund it as part of a 10-year, $12 million plan to back prevention efforts in the state. Rourke said the hope is that the campaign is a conversation starter.

“Rather than doing a campaign that really focuses on the dangers of drugs, we really felt that what’s most important at the beginning … is that more people in New Hampshire understand that this is a problem,” Rourke said.

To describe just how significant a problem substance abuse is among the state’s young people, Rourke drew a connection between what has been described as epidemic levels of heroin use in New Hampshire and New England and childhood substance abuse. Treatment providers know that prescription drug abuse is a “direct trajectory” to heroin use.

But as dangerous as heroin is, it lags far behind alcohol in terms of the impact on the state and its residents’ lives.

“The reality is alcohol kills more people than all other drug use combined,” Rourke said.

“We recognize that it doesn’t matter what the drug of choice is. As a state, we have a problem with substance abuse. It’s not one or the other that’s a problem. They’re all a problem. It’s just a matter of degrees.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached
at 594-6415 or jcote@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).