Published: Jan 25, 2011 7:45 PM EST
Updated: Jan 25, 2011 4:45 PM EST

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla - The April, 2010 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey (FYSAS) indicates Charlotte County has made significant progress in its efforts to reduce youth substance use.

Since 2000, when Charlotte County was labeled “scarlet Charlotte”, 30 day alcohol use among middle and high school students has decreased 16.7%, 30 day binge drinking has decreased 7.2% and 30 day tobacco use has decreased 8.9%. Despite rising rates of adult prescription drug use, the survey reflects less than 4% of students report using prescription drugs or amphetamines.

The FYSAS is given to a sampling of Charlotte County students every two years and is taken by 66 Florida counties. Once ranked as number one in underage drinking, Charlotte County now falls as number fifty-one for thirty-day drinking rates.

A local survey taken every year by all middle and high school students also confirms that most Charlotte County students do not use alcohol, marijuana or tobacco. The August, 2010 Student Social Norms Survey confirms 65% of high school students and 86% of middle school students don’t drink alcohol, 75% of high school students and 91% of middle school students don’t use marijuana. Gains have also been made in student disapproval of substance use, with 63% of high school students reporting they do not approve of their peers drinking alcohol, 60% don’t approve of experimenting with marijuana, even to find out what it is like, and 74% report not approving of parents that provide alcohol to minors.

Perceptions of use among students still remains unusually high. While the majority of students do not participate in these at-risk behaviors, they still perceive over 80% of their peers do. Amity Chandler, Director, Drug Free Charlotte County, notes that decreasing these perceptions is critical to decreasing onset and use of these substances. “If students perceive that they are not normal because they don’t drink or use dope, then their likelihood for experimentation remains exceedingly high”. Chandler stresses that one of the best talks adults can have with teens consists of pointing out that the “party talk” students hear only comes from about 30% of the teen population. “It’s important that our teens understand that their decision to not use these substances makes them more normal than they perceive”.

Both surveys also confirm that student drinkers gain access to alcohol primarily from another person’s home and not their own. Chandler stresses that though teens demonstrate high levels of responsibility in many aspects of their life, parents still need to be clear, firm and consistent about their expectations of their teens to remain alcohol-free. Parents can also help reduce access by tossing liquor supplies left over from special events. Consistently, student drinkers report drinking liquor, not beer or wine. This supply is likely coming from unattended liquor supplies sitting around at home.