Alcohol, marijuana use highest among Washoe County teens

Reported by: Ashley Cullins
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Updated: 12/21/2012 6:37 pm
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- Washoe County schools are seeing fewer students experimenting with some drugs, and alcohol use is down by 12 percent over the last decade - but it's at 71 percent and experts say there's still a lot of work to be done.

“What we're finding is the most used and abused drugs continue to be alcohol, tobacco and marijuana,” said Katherine Loudon, counseling coordinator for Washoe County School District.

Loudon says the district is seeing a decline in drug use - but still 46 percent of students surveyed in 2011 say they've smoked pot. That could be because kids don't think it's dangerous.

Sot eric ohlson, coalition coordinator join together northern nevada: “The perception of risk with marijuana is really declining,” said Eric Ohlson, coalition coordinator for Join Together Northern Nevada, a substance abuse resource.  

“If you don't see it as risky, you're more likely to use it,” Ohlson. 
 
They say kids also don't see over the counter and prescription drugs as dangerous either. But they are - especially when mixed.

“We have cases where kids organs have shut down and have died and it wasn't necessarily from the high, it was the interaction of drugs together,” Loudon said.

While abuse of Adderall, a stimulant prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is on the rise across the country, National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow says the overall trends are encouraging. 

“In the case of cigarettes, we've seen these declines now going over the past 15 years showing that indeed prevention efforts do work,” Volkow said.

So anti-drug efforts have gained some ground but the fight is far from over.

“People think it’s a war on drugs, so if it's a war on drugs there must be a beginning and an ending, and that really isn't true,” Loudon said.

It's a continual process that starts at home.
 
“I think parents always play the strongest role and sometimes we underestimate the power of parents,” Ohlson said.

Loudon says while parents may be intimidated and want to avoid confrontation, it's worth having the tough conversations while kids live at home and the chances of a positive impact are higher.
 
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