BARTON COUNTY — The Communities That Care data, which is a survey of 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders from across the state, has been released from the 2010-11 school year for Barton County. Some good news is reported in data.
The average age of initiation of tobacco or marijuana use is slightly older than state average, starting at 13.29 for cigarette use, and 13.19 for alcohol use, and 14.16 for marijuana use. State-wide, the average age of cigarette use begins at age 12.9, alcohol use at 13.1 and marijuana use at age 13.9.
However, more teens binge drink in Barton County than that the state average, as well as have higher 30 day usage. The number of teens who binge drink, which is defined as having had five or more drinks in a row, statewide is 12.7 percent and for Barton County is 17 percent. This is down from 2010 in Barton County when 20.7 percent of teens binge drank.
There were 27.2 percent of Barton teens that drank in the last 30 days, while 24.2 percent was the statewide average.
This is an improvement since 2010 when nearly 33 percent of Barton teens drank alcohol in the last 30 days.
"Overall, I’m excited by the advances," said Christina Hayes, community prevention consultant for the Regional Prevention Center of northwest Kansas. "We continue to show improvement in alcohol, drug and tobacco prevention. The goal is to be lower next year.
"The state has still identified us as a priority county in underage drinking, binge drinking, smokeless tobacco and cigarette use," she said. "Marijuana use is up again across the state because teens are thinking you can’t get addicted."
She also warned about the social hosting law. "It is against the law for parents to provide alcohol to minors even when they are not at home," Hayes said. "This includes wedding dances."
There are two task forces in the county that are working on prevention. The Central Kansas Partnership meets monthly to discuss prevention and provide communication between county agencies. For more information, contact Janel Rose at the Barton County Health Department. In addition, one area community has formed a task force.
Teens respond differently to alcohol. "Teens need to remember that alcohol is poison. It slows your body down and can actually block some of the messages the brain sends to the body, which is why it affects your perceptions, emotions, vision, hearing and movement," said Hayes. "The problem with underage drinking is that because the adolescent brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 24 or 25, alcohol can damage the maturation or pruning process of the developing brain.
"Because alcohol messes with your brain it can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do like drink and drive, suicide, sexual assault and have unprotected sex. Plus, it can lead to lifetime problems like alcoholism, liver disease, depression, memory loss, impaired brain development and increase risk of stroke, cancer and obesity."
Drinking five or more drinks in a row is also a problem. "This is dangerous because your blood alcohol level spikes and your liver cannot process or keep up with the alcohol so the result can easily be alcohol poisoning. If it isn’t treated immediately it can result in a coma or even death," said the prevention specialist.
She stressed the importance of everyone working together including parents, schools, community and enforcement. "We all have to work together to make a difference," she said.
All of the data is available at www.ctcdata.org.