Drug Use Among Falmouth Students Continues to Drop

Falmouth High SchoolFALMOUTH – Drug and alcohol use by students at Falmouth High School continues to decrease, according to results of a survey conducted in the spring.

About 900 students between 8th grade and 12th grade were given the Communities that Care Youth Survey by Gosnold on Cape Cod for the fourth time in the last eight years.

Results showed that 23 percent of students admitted to drinking alcohol during the 30 days prior to taking the survey, which is down from 35 percent in 2013 and 43 percent in 2011.

Cigarette use has also dropped to 5 percent in May compared to 10 percent two years ago and 16 percent in 2011.

The use of marijuana, which was at 37 percent in 2011 and 27 percent in 2013, fell to 22 percent this year.

“I think it’s a very hopeful sign that not only are alcohol and marijuana rates being reduced but opiate use rates are lower as well,” said Patricia Mitrokostas, the director of prevention for Gosnold on Cape Cod.

The survey showed the use of prescription opiates, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, by Falmouth seniors at zero percent this year which is down from over 22 percent in 2009.

Abuse of prescription opiates is believed to contribute to the current heroin epidemic as users switch to cheaper substitutes such as heroin.

“It’s very promising to show that prevention works and that the earlier we intervene we are more likely we are to succeed and keep young people from using drugs and alcohol at all,” Mitrokosas said.

Federal Drug Free Communities grant funding started the Falmouth Prevention partnership in 2008 which led to school-based prevention programs to engage students.

The grant funding expired in 2013 and Gosnold incorporated the program into its services.

Gosnold now has counsellors in 20 different schools.

“I think the numbers are staggering because they are below the Massachusetts and national averages which shows that using strategic prevention programing in a community does work and is working,” Mitrokosas said. “With this baseline assessment data we were able to design programs around the needs of the community and look at root causes of the problems.”

She said the survey results show that progress is being made and that these programs are justifiable and work.

Mitrokostas said the education has been critical for the youth in the community.

“I think we also have been able to educate in a different way and teach them the science of prevention and that addiction is a chronic condition that is genetic and also preventable,” she said. “And I think to educate the students and the family from that perspective rather than simply use scare tactics has been a strategy that has worked as well.”

Mitrokosas said another survey will be conducted in Falmouth in two years and hope to implement the model in other communities.

“We hope to be able to replicate some of the models we have used in Falmouth across the Cape region and we hope to keep moving the ball forward in Falmouth as well,” she said.

The public can take a look at the survey tool being used at gosnold.org or by calling the prevention office.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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