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Westchester Teen Alcohol, Drug Use Down From 2008

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Alcohol and marijuana use decreased from 2008 to 2011 among Westchester teenagers, according to a survey of ninth- through 12th-graders presented Tuesday by the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth.

Bonnie Fenster, evaluator and data coordinator for the coalition, presented the statistics from a New York State Youth Development Survey to more than 150 people attending the event, held in the Westchester County Center.

The survey was administered to 3,740 students in 2008 and 3,903 students in 2011. It asked them if they had used alcohol or marijuana in the past month. In 2008, 38.9 percent of 10th-graders said they had used alcohol and 12.8 percent said they had used marijuana in the past month, compared to 30.1 percent and 11 percent in 2011. 

Similarly, the percentage of 12th-graders who said they had used alcohol dropped from 57 percent in 2008 to 52.8 percent in 2011. The percentage who said they used marijuana was 28.8 percent in 2008, according to that year's survey. It remained the same in 2011, Fenster said.

"We have made great progress in reducing 10th-grade alcohol and marijuana use, but we still need to reduce further," Fenster said in her presentation.

Despite the decrease, the survey also shows that one in six 10th-graders reported binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks in one sitting, within the past two weeks, compared to one in three 12th-graders.

"While the trends are in the right direction, we still remain challenged to address substance use by 12th-graders," Fenster said.

The coalition also compared its numbers to a national survey, called the Monitoring the Future Survey. It found that in Westchester, both 10th- and 12th-graders had a higher rate of binge drinking, as well as alcohol use within the past month, than the national level.

The Westchester surveys are conducted under the auspices of the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

The event also featured Jack Claypoole, administrator of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy. When not joking about his Southern accent and the quality of barbecue in Washington, the South Carolinian implored those in attendance to appeal to the right side of their teenagers' brains.

"We as public health professionals want to hammer on the left side of their brain with stats. They ain't going to listen to us," Claypoole said. "That right side of the brain is what kids are connected to."

During the event, the coalition honored John Coppola for his work as the executive director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers Inc.

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