Prevention coordinators say teen drug use is hard to pinpoint

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(Host) Vermont has one of the nation’s highest rates of youth drinking and marijuana use.

That’s according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Marcia LaPlante oversees prevention services for Vermont’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs. She says it’s hard to pinpoint why there’s so much drinking and drug use among young Vermonters.

(LaPlante) “Generally what we know is that when substances are cheap and accessible, when they’re perceived as safe and you can’t get in trouble using them, when they’re seen as the easiest route for making friends, or the easiest route for not feeling lonely, not feeling stressed, that all those different factors contribute to our prevalence rates.”

(Host) One approach towns are taking to change these patterns is through community coalitions.

Among the things those coalitions do are to help kids design substance-free activities, or educate parents.

There are 30 such coalitions in Vermont, funded by the state and other sources.

Lori Augustyniak directs the Cabot Coalition. It works with students in the kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade Cabot School and as many as 200 community volunteers.

(Augustyniak) “This is an enormous problem and it takes a large number of individuals and organizations to really make a difference in a community, and that’s what the coalitions are all about, is identifying who are those players who need to be sitting at the table, whether it’s law enforcement, school officials, businesses and youth and all the other key players that are really part of the solution. And bringing those folks together and having the conversations and figuring out what role everyone can play to make a difference.

(Host) Augustyniak says it takes time. The Cabot Coalition has been in existence for ten years now. But she says the rates of underage drinking and drug use in her community are decreasing.

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