Teen Drug Use Drops In Ohio

By Beth Leipholtz 11/13/18

A local prevention expert credits greater awareness, media attention and personal tragedies for the decrease. 

a trio of happy teens discussing opioid use

There’s some good news out of Ohio, as a new survey indicates teen prescription painkiller and heroin use are on the decline.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the numbers come from a survey administered every two years by PreventionFirst, a nonprofit with the goal of stopping teen drug use before it begins. 

“2018 is the lowest I’ve ever seen it,” Mary Haag, president and CEO of PreventionFirst, told the Enquirer

The survey involved almost 33,000 students in grades 7-12 from both private and public schools in the greater Cincinnati area. 

According to the findings, 2.4% of surveyed students reported using any type of prescription drugs in the 30 days prior to the survey, and 0.3% reported using heroin in that same timeframe. In comparison, in 2012, 6.5% reported using prescription pain pills and 1.8% reported heroin use. 

Haag tells the Enquirer that these numbers are encouraging and she credits greater awareness, media attention and personal tragedies for the decrease. 

However, the survey did raise some concerns when it came to alcohol and marijuana. According to the results, in the 30 days before the survey, 13.7% of students reported using alcohol and 8.1% reported using marijuana.

Another recent survey, the CDC's 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, also asked questions about teen opioid use. This survey asked whether students had ever misused prescription opioids and the number answering yes was higher, at 14%. 

Nancy Brener, lead health scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, tells the Enquirer that this response is concerning. However, the same survey also showed a decrease in overall drug use in teens. 

“I think it’s important to understand that we have made progress,“ Brener noted. 

The survey also indicates that those who do not smoke cigarettes or use alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs by age 21 are “virtually certain never to do so."

According to Marc Fishman, medical director of Maryland Treatment Centers and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University Department of Psychiatry, tells the Enquirer that it’s vital that treatment centers be willing to treat all types of substance use disorders in teenagers.

"We need more treatment," Fishman told the Enquirer. “Treatment of cocaine-use disorder. Treatment of alcohol-use disorder. Treatment of marijuana-use disorder.”

"The vast majority of people with opioid-use disorder start with non-opioid use," Fishman added. "Most of them don’t progress, but almost all of the cases of opioid-use disorder started there.”

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.