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Survey sheds light on student drug use in Wisconsin: 88% say they’ve consumed alcohol

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WISCONSIN — A new report released Tuesday, September 1st by Rise Together reveals one in two middle school and high school students in Wisconsin who experimented with risky substances such as illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco are continuing active use and are at risk of developing substance use disorders.

The survey data of nearly 3,000 Wisconsin middle and high school students conducted over the 2014-15 school year shows widespread support among students for increased access to school-based prevention and education programs to address substance abuse in Wisconsin communities.

In preparation for the upcoming 2015-16 school year, Rise Together and partners in the Healthy Youth Bright Futures coalition announced an advocacy campaign to urge Wisconsin schools to adopt SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment), an evidence-based prevention and intervention program to help reach students early about risky substance use and provide additional support for those in need.

Key report findings:

  • One in two Wisconsin students surveyed who’ve experimented with addictive substances continue active use, putting them at risk of developing substance use disorders.
  • Students identify a need for more school prevention, intervention and education strategies to combat drug epidemic in Wisconsin.
  • Most students use for the first time out of curiosity or because their friends use.
  • Substance use and abuse is a multi-faceted issue. Students cite high stress and challenges with self-esteem as major detriments to health and well being.
  • Despite health risk, a majority of students don’t see use of risky substances as a significant problem.

“Young people across Wisconsin need more support in our schools. It’s time for our schools to take action. This is an issue we can no longer ignore. Our youth are dying. How much more is it going to take? Together, we can prevent this from happening,” said Anthony Alvarado, Co-founder of Rise Together.  “Our future is held, in part, within the next generation; our youth. After being in front of 1,000’s of students, I have seen our students asking for help, begging for support, but yet this concern often seems to go on ignored. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we find new solutions to help solve the addiction epidemic in America.”

In response to these findings, substance use prevention and recovery advocates will begin outreach to Wisconsin schools encouraging the adoption SBIRT. SBIRT is a screening program used to help identify risky substance use and abuse and intervene early before use becomes a potential health condition.

Reaching young people early about the dangers of risky substance use is critical to preventing addiction later in life. Research shows that 9 in 10 adults who meet the medical criteria for addiction began using dangerous substances before age 18. 32% of students surveyed in this report identified as having used addictive substances at least once.

Training opportunities for school students services staff to be certified and begin implementing SBIRT with at-risk students during the upcoming 2015-16 school year is currently available through a collaboration between the Wisconsin Safe and Healthy School Center, Wisconsin Department of Instruction, and Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The screening program incorporates questions related to both substance abuse and mental health concerns.

“Our schools are on the front lines of the substance abuse public health crisis in Wisconsin,” said Erik Kirkstein, coordinator of the Healthy Youth, Bright Futures coalition. “With students heading back to school, districts have the opportunity to begin reaching the students who need help most by using SBIRT. This proactive first step will help ensure more young people in Wisconsin have the freedom to achieve their dreams by identifying and preventing risky substance use before it becomes a serious medical condition jeopardizing their future success.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about Rise Together.

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