Alcohol use up for Lake County sophomores
Lake County Health Department executive director Irene Pierce of Wadsworth. | Thomas Delany Jr~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 15, 2013 3:36PM
The use of alcohol by high school sophomores was up in 2012, according to Lake County’s 2012 Illinois Youth Survey results.
The survey revealed senior use held steady at 49 percent, higher than the state average, while younger grades were less inclined to use alcohol, tobacco or marijuana,
Irene Pierce, executive director of the Lake County Health Department and Community Health center, said substance abuse still remains an issue in the county.
“Alcohol continues to remain the substance used most by youth,” she said.
The Youth Survey contains more than 100 questions on substance abuse, personal conflict and violence, academic and school experiences, and mental, health, social and physical health. In Lake County 19,913 middle school and high school students took the survey, which represents 68 percent of the middle school students and 71 percent of the high school students. It’s free to schools every two years and is administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services.
“It is so important to have this data to monitor trends and evaluate progress in the are of substance abuse prevention,” said Pierce.
Of the seniors in high school, 49 percent reported using alcohol in the last 30 days, which is 5 percent higher than the statewide number. Sophomores alcohol use rose from 28 percent in 2010 to 30 percent last year, which is still one percent point below the statewide number.
“This is a high risk-taking age group,” said Kristine Andersen, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs prevention coordinator for the county health department, referring to the sophomores. “But this offers us a wonderful wealth of information to act on,” she said.
“County coalitions are the most important for prevention,” she said. By showing a united front among schools, police, adults, local retailers, “We can steer kids in the right direction,” she said.
The survey results showed that binge drinking (drinking five or more alcohol drinks in past two weeks) for eighth-graders and sophomores declined in 2012 to 5 percent and 13 percent respectively. Statewide the percentages were 8 percent and 16 percent.
In addition, eighth-graders use of alcohol dropped from 16 percent to 14 percent (statewide is 20 percent) and cigarette use dropped from 4 percent to 2 percent (statewide is 8 percent).
Sixth graders also showed a decrease in alcohol use from 7 percent to 5 percent (statewide is 7 percent) and cigarette use stayed the same at 1 percent (statewide is 2 percent).
Seniors were also smoking cigarettes less with a drop from 15 percent to 12 percent and sophomore cigarette use stayed the same at 7 percent. High school students showed a decrease in marijuana use in the last 30 days, including seniors dropping from 27 percent to 25 percent and sophomores dropping from 16 percent to 15 percent.
Bruce Johnson, CEO of Nicasa and co-chair of the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force, said he wants people to understand the effects of drinking and drug use on young people.
“The science behind brain development proves that the areas of the brain responsible for judgment, impulse control and decision making are still developing until age 24. Drinking and using drugs before the brain is fully developed can have long-term effects on these critical areas and adults who provide alcohol or other drugs to minors or think that it is just a part of being a young adult, should take a harder look at the facts,” he said.
Mundelein Police Chief Raymond Rose, who co-chairs the task force with Johnson, warns parents that they have to be part of the solution.
“We can all be part of the solution in reducing the number of children who drink alcohol, and the often tragic consequences, by keeping track of the alcohol in our homes in an effort to reduce youth access. Many teens report that it easy to get alcohol from their homes or the homes of friends without parents’ knowledge,” he said.
The survey said Lake County eighth-graders, sophomores and seniors reported that most got their alcohol from a social source other than their parents. Lower on the list was tapping into their parents’ supply or getting it from retailers. Nearly half the time the alcohol was stolen or taken without permission.~.