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Survey: Raymond High School students using less heroin, more marijuana

Union Leader Correspondent

October 20. 2017 6:54PM
Over the past two years the Raymond Coalition for Youth has made a big push to fight prescription drug abuse and the heroin epidemic. (Courtesy)

RAYMOND - Survey results showing a sharp increase in teen marijuana use were revealed at a Raymond Coalition for Youth Prevention Summit on Friday, but leaders were encouraged by a drop in other forms of drug use.

According to an anonymous survey of Raymond High School students, 37 percent reported using marijuana this year, which is up from 24 percent in 2015.

Alcohol use among teens also rose from 24 percent in 2015 to 38 percent this year, the survey showed.

Some positive results from the survey showed that 2 percent reported using heroin in 2017, down from 6 percent in 2015.

The survey also found fewer students using prescription drugs. Some 10 percent claimed to have used prescription drugs in 2015, but that number dropped to 6 percent this year.

The use of electronic cigarettes among teens remained about the same, with 25 percent reporting using them in 2015 and 24 percent in 2017.

The statistics on marijuana use didn’t surprise Celeste Clark, executive director of the coalition, which is in its 15th year.

“If you think about all the press that’s been done about decriminalization and therapeutic cannabis, they’re getting very mixed messages. Parents are confused. Kids are confused,” she said.

The 5th Annual Prevention Summit held at Candia Woods Golf Links was attended by community and state leaders, law enforcement personnel on the front lines of the drug epidemic, and others who support the coalition’s efforts.

Dr. Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug policy adviser, was the keynote speaker who questioned whether marijuana is becoming the “new big tobacco.”

Over the past 10 years, he said, the only drug use that continues to increase nationally for teens 16 and older is marijuana.

“When everything else is going down and one is going up, why is that? I think that’s because we now have, more than we’ve ever had before for marijuana, a massive new industry whose goal it is to hook kids while their brains are developing, retaining life-long customers, and make this an attractive product, and an easy product,” said Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Much of the coalition’s work is data-driven, with the use of a youth risk behavior survey.

Over the past two years the coalition has made a big push to fight prescription drug abuse and the heroin epidemic.

“Those numbers have taken a nosedive, so we’re very excited about that,” Clark said.

The coalition formed a heroin drug task force last year - the same year that Raymond reported nine deaths related to heroin and/or fentanyl.

The coalition has since brought more services and resources into the community to address heroin and fentanyl abuse. Clark said Raymond has seen four drug-related deaths so far this year.

“The thing with the marijuana that’s so concerning right now is that we have reports that they’re lacing it with other things. Kids are not necessarily getting just marijuana,” she said.

Clark said the fight against substance abuse must continue to be a community effort.

“It takes all of us really being involved and stepping up to the plate. There is something that everybody can do. Talking about drug prevention and alcohol prevention, being a strong adult influence,” Clark said.

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