09 Mar Substance Usage Decreases in East Texas
Across the board, substance use is down in East Texas. Here at Next Step, we focus our work on preventing the use of four main substances most likely to be used by teens: alcohol, tobacco & vape, marijuana, and prescription drugs.
The data we use comes from the Texas School Survey (TSS), a bi-annual research survey conducted by Texas A&M University researchers. The TSS collects self-reported tobacco, alcohol, and substance use data among students in grades 7 through 12 in Texas public schools. The survey is sponsored by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and administered by the Public Policy Research Institute (PPRI).
The Texas School Survey is offered to all schools throughout the state on an annual basis. PPRI actively recruits about 20% of Texas public schools with grades 7 through 12 to participate in the statewide assessment during the spring of even-numbered years. These schools are randomly selected, and schools are not selected based on student demographics or other characteristics.
The data we used is specifically from HHSC Region 4&5 from the years 2016, 2018, and 2020 in comparison with the entire state of Texas.
Region 4 includes schools from the following counties: Anderson, Bowie, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Delta, Franklin, Gregg, Harrison, Henderson, Hopkins, Lamar, Marion, Morris, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Smith, Titus, Upshur, Van Zandt, Wood.
Region 5 includes school data from the following counties: Angelina, Hardin, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity, Tyler.
Here is the breakdown on each of the substances we cover:
The entire state of Texas saw a decrease in respondents who said they used alcohol in the past month across the last four years. The decline in use was much steeper in Region 4&5. In 2016, 32.3% of students said they used alcohol in the past 30 days; In 2020, that number was 27.3%. More students in East Texas also view alcohol use as “very dangerous” compared to the rest of the state.
Both Region 4&5 and the rest of the state saw an increase in tobacco use from 2016 to 2018, and a decrease from 2018 to 2020. East Texas students report having used tobacco in the last month at a higher rate than the rest of the state. While the majority of students do say that tobacco use is “very dangerous”, attitudes towards tobacco use are slightly more favorable in East Texas than the rest of the state.
Across the state of Texas, there was a massive spike in the percentage of students who said they used electronic cigarettes from 2016 to 2020. This spike was much higher in Region 4&5 compared to statewide (54% vs. 36%). These numbers have since declined, but 1 and 10 students still report using an electronic cigarette in the past month. Ironically, a higher percentage of Region 4&5 students view vape use as “very dangerous” than the rest of the state.
While the entire state of Texas saw an increase in the percentage of students who said they have used marijuana in the last month, Region 4&5 saw a decrease from 2016 to 2018. Both the state and Region 4&5 saw a decrease in usage from 2018 to 2020 with East Texas seeing a massive decrease in that time frame (27% decline). A higher percentage of East Texas students view marijuana use as “very dangerous” and more difficult to obtain than the rest of the state.
Both the state of Texas and Region 4&5 saw a large decline in the percentage of students who said they used prescription drugs not prescribed to them in the past month from 2016 to 2018 and again from 2018 to 2020. East Texas saw the largest decline within that four-year time frame. The percentage of students in East Texas who said they’ve used prescription drugs not prescribed to them in the last month dipped below the rest of the state in 2020. Students in East Texas also view usage as “very dangerous” at a higher rate than the rest of the state.
While there is still work to do, these numbers are proof that coalition work is making a difference in our communities. If you’d like to see the reports from Texas A&M, check out their webpage here.