WOOD COUNTY, OH (WTOL) - Local education officials have a better idea how area kids are using alcohol and other drugs all thanks to a survey taken every other year in Wood County.
The biennial Wood County Youth Survey gathers data from all Wood County public schools from 5th through 12th graders on their usage of drugs and alcohol, along with mental health issues.
The survey has been held since 2004, and multiple county organizations use the data to lay out the road map for intervention programs for students who may be partaking in illegal and harmful activities.
This year, more than 10,000 students participated.
The Wood County ADAMHS board has also added questions related to trauma and bullying. Organizers say with every survey, they get a clearer picture on how to properly serve the youth of Wood County.
"We want to have more resilient kids. We want to build a better population for tomorrow. And what we've been able to identify is that the gateways are closing. Alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana have been actually down. So, our kids today are a little bit better than I think the kids of the 90's. So, we want to continue to build a better population, that's why it's important," said Bill Ivoska with the Wood County ADAMHS board.
"As we target something, say in 2004, well that group of kids, those seniors are have graduated. They've long gone. So, now we've got to start with a whole new group and every year. That's why we start in elementary and middle school," said prevention education director for Wood County Schools Kyle Clark.
While the study shows alcohol use is down and marijuana use is staying even, what worries officials today is a jump in inhalants, more commonly referred vaping.
"Vaping is now 17 percent of high school seniors. And they're starting to put in there flavored oils, but also nicotine. And 9 percent reported they are putting in THC," said Ivoska.
The survey ranges from 5th to 12th grade, but the findings are used for developing programs for all ages including educating students on the dangers of the opioid epidemic.
Organizers said intervening at an early age could be the key to preventing a future addiction from developing.
"Early and often, it's not too early. It's not too early to talk about it in first grade, second grade, kindergarten." said Clark.
"You know, if we can get those programs into early, young kids; teaching them to get along and teaching them how to respect authority, we can reduce problems later on in life." said Angela Patchen, program director for Project Aware.