Results of the 2020 Cortland County Youth Survey of 1,871 7th-12th graders show that the percentage of teens who report using common substances such as alcohol, marijuana, vaping products, prescription drugs, and cigarettes in the past 30 days has decreased compared to 2019.
Students in all five school districts across the county were surveyed during the months of October and November 2020, garnering similar survey response rates compared to previous years despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While these results are promising for the health and wellness of Cortland County youth, targeted data-driven youth substance use prevention efforts in the community should and will continue.
The percentage of students who report using alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes in the past 30 days are at all-time lows since Cortland Area Communities That Care (CACTC) began surveying 7th -12th graders in 2014.
Past 30 day use of alcohol and cigarettes have shown steady decline since 2014, with 16.8% of students reporting using alcohol in 2020 compared to 29.9% in 2014 and 3.2% reporting cigarette use compared to 7.4% in 2014.
The percentage of students who reported vaping in the past 30 days peaked in 2018 at 21.9% after doubling from 2017 to 2018. Since 2018, there has been a steady decline in vaping with 13.9% of students reporting vaping in 2020.
Since 2014, reported past 30 day use of prescription drugs has been low in the county youth population, ranging from 1.5% to 3.2%. The percentage of students using prescription drugs in the past 30 days peaked in 2019 at 3.2% and has since decreased to 2.1% in 2020.
While the decreases seen in teen substance use are certainly promising for the health and wellness of Cortland County teens, that does not mean prevention work should stop in our community. Alcohol, historically and currently, has been the most commonly used substance by Cortland County youth and is therefore the current focus of CACTC’s prevention efforts.
In partnership with local school districts, Cortland Prevention Resources, local law enforcement, and the community Environmental Strategies Team, CACTC is currently implementing a five year project aimed at reducing underage drinking in 7 th -12th graders in Cortland County.
Current Alcohol Prevention Strategies Include:
• Social norming campaign correcting misperceptions about peer alcohol use for youth (Launched: April 2020)
• Social marketing campaign educating youth on the dangers of binge drinking (Launched: April 2020)
• Social marketing campaigns targeting parents of teens which includes a brand new website, Upstream Parent. The website offers information on a wealth of topics and is not limited to alcohol education and prevention (Launched: September 2020)
• Community party patrols (Launched: May 2020)
• Too Good for Drugs programming for 6th -8 th graders in schools that were previously not receiving programming (Launched: January 2021). In response to the increase in vaping from 2017-2018, CACTC also developed, and is currently implementing, a social norming campaign for youth correcting misperceptions about peer vaping. This project, which launched in April 2020, is in partnership with Tobacco Free Cortland and other concerned stakeholders.