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SHARP survey reveals drug use trending down for youth

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

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

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What we’ve seen on thebr2019 Utah County report, is that essentially all drug use rates are trendingbrdownward. This includes alcohol, marijuana, prescription drug (misuse) andbrtobacco/vapes. Bullying is also going down. Depressive symptoms remain high,brwith more than 70 percent of students reporting signs of moderate to highbrlevels of depression.

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SHARP also measuresbr“risk and protective factors,” factors which predict antisocial behaviors orbrnegative outcomes. The more risk factors a student experiences, the more likelybrthey will have negative outcomes, such as drug use, suicide attempts, andbrfailure in school. The more protective factors however, the more likely thatbryouth will experience healthy outcomes.

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Almost all reportedbrrisk factors decreased this year. The top few that were reported include lowbrcommitment to school, youth and parental attitudes favorable towards antisocialbrbehavior, and depressive symptoms.

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

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

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The sample size usedbris quite robust, and any data that does not meet the required sample size isbrnot reported and marked with a note that there was insufficient data to reportbron that question.

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We also see strongbrtrends in the data from year to year, instead of random numbers. This trendingbrshows that real results are being tracked from year to year. It has been provenbrmany times that asking about a behavior, does NOT cause a youth to participatebrin that behavior. Instead, asking these questions provides powerful, accuratebrinformation for prevention and school personnel to address issues that studentsbrare facing in our community.

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

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