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SHARP survey reveals drug use trending down for youth

Nov 01, 2019 01:40PM

The Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Statewide Survey outcomes were recently released.

This survey is administered every other year to students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 across Utah and asks questions about health, including drug use, mental health and suicide, gang involvement, academic issue and health and fitness.

What we’ve seen on the 2019 Utah County report, is that essentially all drug use rates are trending downward. This includes alcohol, marijuana, prescription drug (misuse) and tobacco/vapes. Bullying is also going down. Depressive symptoms remain high, with more than 70 percent of students reporting signs of moderate to high levels of depression.

SHARP also measures “risk and protective factors,” factors which predict antisocial behaviors or negative outcomes. The more risk factors a student experiences, the more likely they will have negative outcomes, such as drug use, suicide attempts, and failure in school. The more protective factors however, the more likely that youth will experience healthy outcomes.

Almost all reported risk factors decreased this year. The top few that were reported include low commitment to school, youth and parental attitudes favorable towards antisocial behavior, and depressive symptoms.

The top reported protective factors include family attachment, opportunities for prosocial involvement and belief in a moral order. We often get asked how we know that the data is accurate, and participants aren’t just making up answers. There are a few protective measures put in place to ensure results are accurate.

First, a made-up drug is included in the drug questions section. Any report stating this nonexistent drug was used is discarded. The survey also asks the same question multiple times in different ways. Any report with conflicting answers is discarded.

The sample size used is quite robust, and any data that does not meet the required sample size is not reported and marked with a note that there was insufficient data to report on that question.

We also see strong trends in the data from year to year, instead of random numbers. This trending shows that real results are being tracked from year to year. It has been proven many times that asking about a behavior, does NOT cause a youth to participate in that behavior. Instead, asking these questions provides powerful, accurate information for prevention and school personnel to address issues that students are facing in our community.

Talking about issues such as mental health, drug use, school and other concerns, can also help an individual youth who is struggling, so remember to check in with your child often. Check out the entire report at: dsamh.utah.gov/reports/sharps-survey.(Serve Daily submission by Michelle Swapp.)