While the use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana among young Wiltonians has decreased since 1998, recent reports show that parents continue to underestimate their use.

In December 2014, the Wilton Youth Council and Positive Directions of Westport administered the Wilton Youth Survey to find out about Wilton middle and high school students’ use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs.

The survey was previously administered in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2011.

Another survey — the Parent Survey on Youth Substance Use — was taken by 300 Middlebrook and Wilton High School parents between March and May of 2015.

The parent survey was coordinated with the 2014 youth survey to measure their perceptions about their oldest school-age child, as well as other children in the community. The average age of parent responders was 47.6.

The parent survey was also administered in 2007 and 2011.

According to the parent survey report, the primary goal of both the youth and parent surveys is to “track changes in prevalence of recent … use of substances — what youth themselves report, what parents perceive, and trends in the relationships between the two.”

The results of both surveys were compiled by Archie C. Swindell, PhD, of Quantitative Services.

The 2014 Wilton Youth Survey was taken by 1,338 Wilton students in grades 7-12 — a sample representing approximately 86% of enrolled middle school students and 55% of enrolled high school students in town. A majority of 2014 survey-takers reported getting A’s and B’s in school.

Findings


According to the 50-page youth survey report, the use of all substances — “especially alcohol and marijuana” — among Wilton youth “increases sharply as they advance through high school.”

“As students progress from grades 7 through 12,” states a Wilton Youth Council and Positive Directions press release, “their perception of the risk of harm in using these substances substantially decreases and their usage increases.”

The majority of the survey-takers reported first using alcohol, marijuana or cigarettes when they were 13 years or older.

The results of the 2015 parent survey found that Wilton parents “continue to perceive lower prevalences for cigarettes and alcohol than youth themselves reported.”

It also revealed that while parents of high school students believe that the availability of substances has increased in 2015, Wilton youth do not agree. Furthermore, the parent report states, “the perceived ease of access was higher for parents of younger youth, despite the fact that prevalence of use increases with age.”

As for family rules regarding substance use, the parent report states, “few parents indicated that there are no family rules to discourage the use of substances, including alcohol, marijuana and illicit drugs, and recreational use of prescription meds.” This shows that family rules in Wilton “have changed very little since 2007.”

Alcohol


In all grades except 11-12, Wilton youth’s use of alcohol was lower in 2014 than in previous years, according to the survey report.

The report further states that the use of alcohol among Wilton youth is “similar to use in other Connecticut towns with similar demography.”

As for heavy drinking — five or more drinks on a single occasion — 79% of alcohol-using Wiltonians in grades 11-12 reported at least one episode of heavier drinking in the 30 days prior to the survey.

The survey results also found that the most common reasons for drinking among Wilton youth was peer pressure, except among older girls who drink.

The following percent of Wilton students reported recently drinking alcohol at least once within 30 days prior to taking the survey:


  • Grade 12: 58.4% (56.5% boys, 60% girls).

  • Grade 11: 38.2% (40.3% boys, 36.1% girls).

  • Grade 10: 19.3% (19.5% boys, 19.5% girls).

  • Grade 9: 10.1% (12.5% boys, 8.2% girls).

  • Grade 8: 3.4% (2.7% boys, 4% girls).

  • Grade 7: 0.6% (1.2% boys, 0% girls).


The following percent of students reported drinking alcohol at least once in their lives:

  • Grade 12: 75.2% (72.6% boys, 78% girls).

  • Grade 11: 64.2% (61.3% boys, 67.2% girls)

  • Grade 10: 46.4% (44.7% boys, 48.7% girls).

  • Grade 9: 20.9% (26.8% boys, 16.4% girls).

  • Grade 8: 15.7% (16.7% boys, 15% girls).

  • Grade 7: 3.6% (5.9% boys, 1.3% girls).


According to the parent survey report, “children who spend more than two hours on a typical day after school without adults present had a higher prevalence of alcohol use,” and “feelings of closeness and family structure are associated with decreased patterns of alcohol use.”

The results of both surveys revealed that parents of students in grades 7-12 underestimate the prevalence of drinking among Wilton youth — with parents of high school students underestimating alcohol use to a greater extent than parents of younger children:


  • 0% of parents of seventh and eighth graders said they believe their child had recently had alcohol, while 2% of seventh and eighth graders reported doing so in 2014.

  • 21% of parents of ninth through 12th graders said they believe their child had recently had alcohol, while 31.5% of the high schoolers reported doing so in 2014.


Marijuana


While alcohol is the most prevalently used substance by Wilton youth, marijuana comes in second.

However, marijuana use among Wilton youth in 2014 was “somewhat less than in similar Connecticut towns and much less among young youth than national figures,” according to the report.

The report also found that 11th and 12th graders perceive the risk of harm from marijuana use to be low and this has also decreased among younger youth since 2007.

According to the youth survey report, more boys than girls reported using marijuana within 30 days of taking the 2014 survey:


  • Grade 12: 27.9% boys, 16.3% girls.

  • Grade 11: 27.4% boys, 13.3% girls.

  • Grade 10: 13.7% boys, 3.9% girls.

  • Grade 9: 0% boys, 0% girls.

  • Grade 8: 2% boys, 0% girls.

  • Grade 7: 0.6% boys, 0% girls.


As with alcohol, Wilton parents also underestimated their children’s use of marijuana:

  • 0% of parents of seventh and eighth graders said they believe their child had recently used marijuana, while 0.6% of seventh and eighth graders reported doing so in 2014.

  • 7.7% of parents of ninth through 12th graders said they believe their child had recently used marijuana, while 12.8% of the high schoolers reported doing so in 2014.


Cigarettes


Although cigarette smoking has declined to low single digits among high school students in Wilton — levels that are "considerably below national averages,” the 2015 parent survey revealed that parents underestimate the use of cigarettes among the town’s youth:

  • 0% of parents of seventh and eighth graders said they believe their child had recently smoked a cigarette, while 0.8% of seventh and eighth graders reported doing so in 2014.

  • 2.4% of parents of ninth through 12th graders said they believe their child had recently smoked a cigarette, while 3.4% of the high schoolers reported doing so in 2014.


According to the 2014 youth survey results, more Wilton boys than girls — except in 11th grade — reported smoking cigarettes within 30 days of the survey:

  • Grade 12: 11.3% boys, 10% girls.

  • Grade 11: 1.6% boys, 3.3% girls.

  • Grade 10: 0.8% boys, 0% girls.

  • Grade 9: 0% boys, 0% girls.

  • Grade 8: 1.3% boys, 0% girls.

  • Grade 7: 1.8% boys, 0% girls.


Illicit drugs


Approximately 5% of Wilton 11th and 12th graders reported using an illicit drug other than marijuana — ”mainly cocaine, hallucinogens like LSD, or ketamine” —  in 2014, according to the report, and more boys than girls reported such use:

  • Grade 12: 6.5% boys, 6% girls.

  • Grade 11: 6.6% boys, 1.6% girls.

  • Grade 10: 2.4% boys, 0.7% girls.

  • Grade 9: 0% boys, 0% girls.

  • Grade 8: 0.7% boys, 0% girls.

  • Grade 7: 0.6% boys, 0% girls.


According to the parent survey report, parents in Wilton underestimate children’s use of illicit drugs:

  • 0% of parents of seventh and eighth graders said they believe their child had recently used illicit drugs, while 0.3% of seventh and eighth graders reported doing so in 2014.

  • 0.5% of parents of ninth through 12th graders said they believe their child had recently used illicit drugs, while 2.9% of the high school students in Wilton reported doing so in 2014.


In 2014, the following percentages of students reported using the following illicit drugs at least once in their lives:

  • Cocaine: 5.3% of 12th graders.

  • Crack cocaine: 1.8% of 12th graders.

  • MDMA (Ecstasy): 0.7% of 10th graders, 7.1% of 12th graders.

  • Hallucinogens: 0.8% of 11th graders, 9.7% of 12th graders.

  • Heroin: 0.5% of 10th graders, 2.7% of 12th graders.

  • Salvia: 0.6% of eighth graders, 0.8% of 11th graders, 1.8% of 12th graders.

  • Ketamine: 0.3% of seventh graders, 0.8% of ninth graders, 4.4% of 12th graders.

  • GHB: 1.8% of 12th graders.

  • Synthetic cannabinoid: 4% of 10th graders, 5.7% of 11th graders, 8% of 12th graders.

  • Bath salts: 2.5% of seventh graders, 0.9% of eighth graders, 1.1% of 10th graders, 1.7% of 11th graders, 1.8% of 12th graders.

  • Methamphetamine: 0.8% of ninth graders, 0.8% of 11th graders, 0.9% of 12th graders.


As for “designer drugs” like K2 and Spice, which have been outlawed in Connecticut, 1.3% of older Wilton youth reported using them in 2014.

Prescription drugs


Approximately 5.5% of Wilton 11th and 12th graders reported using a prescription drug without their own prescription, according to the report — ”primarily either stimulants or sedatives, or both.”

Again, more Wilton boys than girls reported using prescription drugs without a prescription in 2014:


  • Grade 12: 6.5% boys, 2% girls.

  • Grade 11: 0% boys, 3.3% girls.

  • Grade 10: 2.4% boys, 0.7% girls.

  • Grade 9: 3.5% boys, 0% girls.

  • Grade 8: 1.3% boys, 1.2% girls.

  • Grade 7: 1.8% boys, 0.6% girls.


The majority of young Wiltonians who reported using prescription drugs said they first did so when they were at least 13 years old.

As with the other substances, Wilton parents underestimate the use of prescription drugs among young Wiltonians:


  • 0% of parents of seventh and eighth graders said they believe their child had recently — 30 days prior to the survey — illegally used prescription drugs, while 1.2% of seventh and eighth graders reported doing so in 2014.

  • 0.5% of parents of ninth through 12th graders said they believe their child had recently — 30 days prior to the survey — illegally used prescription drugs, while 2.3% of the high schoolers reported doing so in 2014.


The results of both surveys are available at positivedirections.org/surveys.html .

This is an updated version of an article The Bulletin published earlier.