As local students try to balance the demands of school, work and home life, some escape their stress, anxieties or fears by engaging in substance use.

From drinking to marijuana use, a 2017 survey of Lee’s Summit’s eighth, 10th and 12th graders confirms underage substance use by local teens.

Substance use increases at an alarming rate as students get older, when their perception of parental disapproval declines and opportunities for access increases. For example, the survey reveals that one in 10 eighth graders used alcohol in a 30-day period, while one in three 12th graders admitted the same.

Similarly, when students perceive a substance to be less harmful, the number of students using that substance historically increases. Less than half (44.7 percent) of Lee’s Summit 12th graders said that marijuana is harmful. While marijuana use within the past 30 days is reported by only 2.4 percent of eighth graders, among 12th graders, that number jumps to 16 percent.

On average, close to nine percent of all students surveyed admitted to marijuana use in the last month. When the timeframe isn’t locked into the past month, reported use nearly triples, with one in four students reporting use of marijuana.

While driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs necessitates significant attention, the decisions youth make to ride with impaired drivers also has a substantial impact on their safety. The survey showed that one in five teens have ridden in a vehicle in the last year with someone who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Preventing alcohol and drug use is a critical step in a young person’s brain development, which continues through age 25. Developing the ability to refuse alcohol and drug use also builds resilience and encourages positive, healthy and responsible decisions throughout middle school, high school and beyond.

For information on parenting programs offered by Lee’s Summit CARES or to schedule a 20-minute presentation of this data, visit Parents can also access for information on how to talk with teens about drugs, their effects and where to go to get help.

Guest author Monica Meeks, MBA, serves as the Prevention Program Coordinator for Lee’s Summit CARES, a non-profit community coalition dedicated to preventing youth substance use and violence, empowering positive parenting and promoting exemplary character. She is a member of the Lee’s Summit Youth Court Advisory Board and the Lee’s Summit Health Education Advisory Board, a Mayor-appointed, volunteer board that promotes and advocates community health by assessing health issues, educating the public and government agencies, developing plans to address health issues, encouraging partnerships and evaluating the outcomes.