New survey numbers show drug, alcohol use among Snohomish County teens declining

by: Joanna Small Updated:

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EVERETT, Wash. - New statewide numbers show drug use in Washington teens is on the decline - at a time when drug use in the adult population is hitting an all-time high - and Snohomish County is one of the state's biggest success stories.

More than 14,000 students in grades six, eight, ten, and 12 in Snohomish County were surveyed. And as this county, and Everett in particular, battles one of the worst heroin epidemics in the state of Washington, these new numbers suggest maybe the next generation will be different.

Taylor Younker, who is a senior at Mariner High School in Everett, says things have changed a lot since she went to middle school.

“A lot of people were kind of, like, really into it because they thought it was really cool but after a while they realized that’s not what’s best for them and they started putting their education first,” she said.

The numbers support Younker's statement. Fewer teens in Snohomish County are abusing drugs and alcohol.

According to Healthy Youth Survey data just released by the state department of public health, Snohomish County in particular has made significant strides in reducing substance abuse among students.

Since 2006, alcohol use had dropped nearly 40 percent.  And since 2002, the number of students who said they consumed alcohol in the past month has decreased from 34 percent to just over 18 percent.

Marijuana use has held steady at around 15 percent, but the Snohomish County Health District says that’s still a win.

“So many people feared with legalization more kids would be using it but we found, compared to even 2014, most 10th and 12th graders said it would be very hard to get marijuana if they wanted some,” explained Gabby Fraley, an epidemiologist with the Snohomish County Health Department.

But the numbers having to do with opioid use are what the county finds most encouraging at a time when more than 60 percent of those hospitalized for opioid problems at Providence in Everett are under the age of 30.  The survey results show painkiller abuse amongst 10th and 12th-graders now has fallen to 5 percent.

“Kids are more aware of the dangers of using these products,” Fraley said.

Younker and her friends are proud not to be any of these statistics. Instead they’re part of a growing number of teens making healthier choices.

“Everyone has grown together more as a community, so if people are struggling with drugs or alcohol, other people are there for them to lift them up,” Younker said. 

There are other parts to this survey, including a section of that tackles suicide and depression.  Those numbers are set to be released in May, but the Snohomish County Health District already knows there has been a significant spike.