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Survey: Teen Substance Abuse Decreases in Wilton

WILTON, Conn. – Every so often, parents hear a statistic about teenagers that makes them happy. Parents in Wilton may be pleased to know that substance abuse is trending down among Wilton teens.

Every four or five years, a survey is sent in Wilton to parents and students in grades 7 to 12 about substance use. The survey is confidential. About 45 percent, or 883, of the town's students participated in the survey, and 466 parents did as well.

Lory Rothstein, director of the Partnership for Success Grant at Positive Directions and a member of Wilton’s Board of Education, said the survey is done at intervals to get a whole new high school class experience.

The survey, performed by Quantitative Services, found that the use of alcohol and cigarettes among teens is dropping. But marijuana use trended up slightly in the first two years of high school.

“If they don’t see harm associate with the substance then they are more likely to use it,” said Colleen Fawcett, Wilton Youth Services coordinator. And with marijuana, students often don’t see the harm, she said.

On average, the survey showed that teenagers are using less drugs and alcohol than teens did in 1998, when the first survey was done.

In the 1998 survey, 66.5 percent of the students surveyed in 11th and 12th grades reported drinking alcohol in the previous 30 days. In the 2011 survey, the percent fell to 47.7, a drop of nearly 19 percentage points.

However, Wilton teens are still far above the 40 percent of teens nationally who report consuming alcohol.

“We find towns with similar demographics tend to get similar results on these tests,” said Rothstein.

And the town's wealth can be a factor in the increase in teen drinking. “Affluence is a risk factor,” Fawcett said. Rothstein also said that because Wilton is such a high-performing school district, some students use drugs and alcohol as stress relievers.

A presentation on the survey will be given as a part of a Community Conversation on April 25 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Trackside Teen Center. To register, contact the Wilton Youth Council at 203.834.6413 or email Margaret Creeth.

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