By Kim Bartel
After enduring a worldwide pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, a downturn in the economy, and cultural unrest, it is always thrilling to come across something worthy of celebration – something that touches more than a few fortunate souls, that turns the tide for the health and wellbeing of everyone in the community. Like finding cool refreshing water after wandering through the desert, it’s worth celebrating the change that is taking place among our future leaders, our students, who are now taking charge of their lives and proving they can make the right decision. The decision they are making is that after years of increasing substance use, there is now a noticeable decline in alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use among school-age adolescents within Deep East and Southeast Texas.
As a purveyor of data, it’s often expected of me to scan and highlight data points that warn of possible concerns. However, when such a positive trend crops up, I’m thankful for the occasion to celebrate. For Public Health Region 5 which includes Angelina, Hardin, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties, the results are from the 2022 Texas School Survey (TSS) which reveals this positive trend in substance use.
The TSS is administered to randomly selected schools (grades seven through 12) within each public health region every other year by the Public Service and Administration (PSAA) at Texas A&M University. Since the outbreak of COVID and subsequent school closures occurred in 2020, that year’s survey was incomplete. However, data taken from the 2018 TSS was compared to the 2022 TSS for which we get our results. The results are looking at those who have consumed the indicated substance within the past month of the survey.
Those results are:
•Overall tobacco use decreased by 34%
•Electronic cigarette use decreased by 14%
•Alcohol use decreased by 17%
•Marijuana use decreased by 17%
Substance use often creates long-term negative effects that not only harm the individual using the substance but their network of family and friends for generations. To see a decrease in the number of students using substances such as alcohol, tobacco and marijuana means that the outlook for individual and public health is improving. This means a decreased strain on public services ranging from law enforcement to healthcare costs. That is good news. So, take a moment, and pat yourself on the back. Parents, your kids are listening to you. Your opinion and attitude matter to them. School teachers and administrators, churches, area agencies, community partners, and the prevention department of the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council are vital to the positive outcome that we see. Good job East Texas and thank you because prevention works.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, there is help available. Contact the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council at 800-445-8562 to receive compassionate and professional help today.
Kim Bartel is the data coordinator for the Region 5 Prevention Resource Center Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council.