According to the most recent survey results from Rye Action for Children and Teens, RyeACT, many of Rye’s youth still sit well above national averages in their rates of alcohol consumption and marijuana use.
On May 9, in Rye High School’s Performing Arts Center, RyeACT held its second annual community event on drug prevention, where in addition to hearing lectures from guest speakers, audience members gathered to pore over 2016’s data on rates of substance abuse amongst Rye’s youth.
According to survey results, 71 percent of 12th-grade respondents said they used alcohol in the past 30 days compared to a national average of 33 percent.
Likewise, for marijuana, 38 percent of Rye High School’s 12th-graders reported using in the past month as opposed to a national average of 22 percent.
For some lower grades, rates of alcohol and marijuana use dropped moderately, but many were still over national averages.
Rye, like many communities throughout Westchester, has seen an uptick in drug addiction over the past several years—particularly in regard to the abuse of prescription pills and heroin—which has been the root of six fatal overdoses of young adults in the community.
According to co-founder of RyeACT, Councilwoman Julie Killian, rates or prescription drug abuse were not compared to the previous survey taken in 2014 due to differences in methodology between years, but most recent numbers show that 5 percent of 12th grade respondents reported misusing prescription drugs in the past 30 days, as did 2.9 percent of 11th graders.
Seventh through 10th grades misused Rx medication at 0.4, 0.9, 1.4, and 2 percent, respectively.
This year’s survey did not breakdown drug use by type.
A new category included in this year’s survey—e-cigarettes—was among the surprisingly high rates of use for Rye teens, with 10th- to 12th-graders all using electronic cigarettes 20 percent more frequently than the national averages.
In that category, 12th-graders were the starkest users, with 42 percent of those surveyed reporting that they’ve used one in the past month as opposed to just 12 percent nationally.
This year, suicidal thoughts amongst teens were also surveyed, and showed that about 4 percent of respondents had thought of killing themselves either “a lot, or often.” Killian said that equates to about 63 students in grades seven through 12.
To help attendees in the nearly packed room parse through the problem of drug abuse and addiction, the night’s event also featured Dr. Robert Dupont, the former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Dupont discussed addiction and the fight against drugs, detailing drugs’ impact on users’ brains and just what communities can do to help prevent the scourge of drug addiction from overwhelming their communities.
In one of his most direct addresses, Dupont zeroed in on the audience.
“I think you underestimate what’s happening right here; I think you underestimate what those six deaths mean; I think you underestimate what that data about your kids’ drug use means,” he said. “I think you underestimate what you can do together; not in a mean-spirited way, or hostile, but in a loving, generous, thoughtful, way.”
Dupont said that for parents looking to help change the tide of drug addiction in their community, there is some positive news, however.
“To think that youth drug use is immutable and all you can do is tinker around the edges of it, I think is not doing a service to young people and not recognizing the capacity that you have and other parents have in getting other people to get involved in this,” said Dupont in his closing remarks.