The number of Delaware County high school students who say they have tried heroin, methamphetamines or cocaine tops the United States average, according to a recent “Youth Health Assessment” by the Delaware County Family Children First Council and the Delaware General Health District.
When surveyed, 5.4 percent of Delaware County high school students said they had at some point used heroin, 5.6 percent said they had used meth and 6.3 percent said they had used cocaine, according to the assessment. These figures are higher than the United States average, which are 2.2 percent for heroin, 3.2 percent for meth and 5.5 percent for cocaine for U.S. high school students, the assessment states.
Marijuana is by far the common drug used by Delaware County high school students, as 21.4 percent of students reported they had used marijuana in the past and 14.4 percent reported they currently use marijuana. The good news? The U.S. average for past use is 40.7 percent and current use is 23.4 percent.
Delaware students also came well under the U.S. average for alcohol consumption — with 46.9 percent of county high school students reporting they had consumed alcohol, below the U.S. average of 66.2 percent. Additionally, 26.2 of county high school students said they had consumed alcohol in the past month, which is also under the U.S. average of 34.9 percent.
Kelsey Kuhlman, a health educator at the Delaware General Health District and one of the people involved in the administration of parts of the assessment, said the substance abuse figures were sad but not surprising.
Kuhlman said many students during the survey were asked if they knew someone they could call to get drugs and most knew more than one person who could get them anything they asked for.
“It’s shocking and scary when you hear it out of the mouths of the youth,” Kuhlman said.
Kuhlman said the health district and the Family Children First Council have set objectives of reducing student drug use by using educational campaigns on the dangers of drug use, particularly heroin, as well as using mass media to increase public concern for marijuana use.
The assessment reports that officials hope to reduce drug use by 20 percent in the student population by the end of 2018.
In addition to substance abuse, mental health, obesity, family support and environmental health were identified as priority areas for improvement for Delaware County.
However, the number of obese schoolchildren has decreased slightly since an assessment in 2007.
During a similar assessment in 2007, 15.75 percent of Delaware County third-graders were overweight and 13.33 percent were obese. In 2014, when this assessment was compiled, the numbers had decreased slightly to 15 percent and 13 percent respectively.
Similarly, in 2007, 16.3 percent of the county’s seventh-graders were found to be overweight and 13.83 percent were found to be obese. Those numbers also decreased in 2014 to 16 percent and 13 percent respectively.
The assessment says unhealthy eating and inactive lifestyles are linked to obesity.
Strategies to reduce the number of overweight and obese students include community-wide campaigns to promote healthy eating and active living.
Kuhlman said the health district has many community partners that will work together to implement the strategies in the assessment.
More information about the survey can be found on the Delaware General Health District’s website or on YouTube by searching for Delaware General Health District.
Another part of the assessment was the health district’s “Photovoice” project in which students from local schools were given cameras and asked to document the good and the bad in Delaware County.
Photovoice participants also identified obesity and drug use as two important issues in the community.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.