By Derrick Knutson—
Chisago County residents might be aware some students in the county are using and abusing alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs and methamphetamine, but they don’t have a clear picture of just how many have delved into the world of substance abuse.
Community Partnership With Youth and Families, a non-profit organization that works to promote healthy lifestyles for young people, is shedding light on substance abuse in the county.
The organization obtained two grants that funded a countywide survey of 6th, 9th and 12th-grade students in the county.
A total of 1,485 were surveyed.
Students who took the anonymous, voluntary survey at the start of the school year answered questions about their use of drugs and alcohol over the past 30 days, perception of risk, perception of parent disapproval, perception of peer disapproval and average age of onset.
There was a two-percent margin of error with the survey.
The results of that survey were presented to Partners for a Drug Free Chisago County, a group of county officials and community leaders, during a meeting in North Branch April 19.
In terms of marijuana use, Chisago County is average when compared to the rest of the state.
But alcohol consumption is at a higher level as age increases.
Statewide, four percent of 6th graders, 19 percent of 9th graders and 41 percent of 12th graders reported they consumed alcohol in the past 30 days.
In Chisago County, the percentage is the same for 6th graders and three points lower for 9th graders, but increases to 46 percent for seniors.
Melissa Vrudny, a certified prevention specialist with Partners for a Drug Free Chisago County, queried those on-hand for the meeting why they thought alcohol use in Chisago County increased when students become seniors.
Rush City High School Students Against Drunk Driving member Jazmyn Kepler chimed in with a response.
“From being a 12th grader, I know a lot of people in my class whose parents have ridiculously lightened up on them on smoking, alcohol use … anything like that,” she said. “When I look at (the statistics), I’m not surprised.”
In relation to tobacco use, Chisago County was lower than state average among each age group, and the same was true for 6th and 12th graders when it comes to methamphetamine use over the 30-day period.
For seniors, the statewide average is one percent in all three age groups, but in Chisago County three percent of seniors reported using methamphetamine.
Vrudny didn’t have specific reasons as to why Chisago County was higher in some areas of the survey than state average, but said Partners for a Drug Free Chisago County and Community Partnership are always looking for ways to reduce drug and alcohol abuse among young people countywide.
“We want to keep the young people in our county safe and make this a safer and healthier county for all of us,” she said.