(Host) A new study shows the rate of illicit drug use by young people in Vermont is among the highest in the nation. Officials say the figures are nothing new and efforts are under way to address the problem.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) The study compiles figures from two years of surveys conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. It represents one of the largest national samplings of Americans’ drug use and smoking habits and Vermont fares poorly in several categories.
For example, more than 16 percent of twelve to seventeen year olds in Vermont reported using an illicit drug in the past month. That’s the highest rate in the nation. Marijuana use by young Vermonters is also among the highest. The numbers are in line with what the state already knew and they’re similar to past year’s figures.
Barbara Cimaglio heads the state’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division. Cimaglio says the fact the numbers haven’t changed over time doesn’t indicate the state is failing in efforts to address the problem.
(Cimaglio) “No, I don’t think it tells us that. I think what we see is that the northeast as a whole is experiencing a great deal of problems related to the early use of drugs and alcohol.”
(Zind) According to the study, northeastern states have among the highest rates of alcohol and drug use in the country. Cimaglio says new efforts to put counselors in schools and expand drug and alcohol abuse programs will help.
For example, according to the study, Vermont tops the list of states in the percentage of people needing but not receiving treatment for a drug problem. Cimaglio says the state’s treatment capacity is growing, which should address that problem.
She says the most important initial step is getting the word out that there is a serious alcohol and drub abuse problem in Vermont.
(Cimaglio) “We’ve been doing that. We’ve been trying to get this information out. We want to talk with communities more about what they can do to make a difference because the first step to making a change is alerting people to the extent of the problem.”
(Zind) The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration does contain some bright spots for Vermont. Vermonters’ use of tobacco is lower than most other states and close to the national average.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.