Community Needs Assessment

Substance abuse is defined as using mind or behavior altering substances that result in negative behaviors and health outcomes. These substances include tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. Some of the negative outcomes associated with substance abuse include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Crime
  • Homicide
  • Suicide

Some of the negative health outcomes associated with substance abuse include:

  • Substance dependence
  • HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections
  • Teenage pregnancy
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Certain cancers
  • Digestive problems
  • Liver disease
  • Depression and anxiety

People who use substances often begin at an early age. Ninety percent of adults with a substance use disorder started using before the age of 18 and half started under the age of 15. And youth who use marijuana for the first time before age 14 are five times more likely to abuse drugs as an adult compared to youth who use marijuana at age 18. Therefore, preventing substance use among youth is crucial.

This assessment focused specifically on alcohol and marijuana use among 12-20 year olds and prescription drug use among 18-25 year olds. Below are summary findings on each substance.

Alcohol

Among Douglas County School District high school students during the year 2013, 26.6% of high school students had at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days and 13.8% reported binge drinking at least once in the past 30 days. During the years 2011-2014, there was an overall increased trend in emergency department visits for residents of all ages related to alcohol but no increasing trend for hospitalizations. Alcohol was responsible for more motor vehicle crashes involving injury compared to other drugs. Focus group results also revealed that alcohol use was common among youth, socially acceptable and was easy to obtain.

Marijuana

Among Douglas County School District high school students during the year 2013, one quarter of students reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime and 13.2% reported using marijuana at least once in the past 30 days. More Hispanic students currently used marijuana compared to white non-Hispanic students. A higher percentage of male students reported trying marijuana compared to female students. During the years 2011-2014, there was an overall increased trend in emergency department visits related to marijuana but no increasing trend for hospitalizations and so few deaths that the data were suppressed. Youth stated in focus groups that marijuana is common and now socially acceptable due to its legalization.

Prescription Drug Use

Among Douglas County School District high school students during the year 2013, 12.8% of students had taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Statewide, 13.6% high school students took a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription. The youth from the focus groups stated that alcohol and marijuana were more commonly used substances compared to prescription drugs.

To read the full report, click here.