Troubling trends in drug use among adolescents and young adults in Connecticut


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – The legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use has led to a growing acceptance, and shrinking perception of harm. But it’s not the pot of the 60’s and 70’s.

“Now it’s about growing pure forms of marijuana, getting strains that are more and more potent,” says Andy Buccaro with Project Courage.

Now, more potent in a liquid, oil or wax like form. With vaping, fast becoming the tool of choice among students in Connecticut, to inhale the stuff.
A survey of 2,500 students in the Valley, by behavioral health care provider BHcare, reflects the trend.

“The survey shows that we have students using vaping devices and then we have students who say they like the buzz feeling it gives them from using the vaping devices,” said Pam Mautte, BHcare Prevention Director.

She hears it from high school students she meets while talking about the danger of drug addiction.

“They replace it with the marijuana oil so they are getting high from it without the odor of the marijuana,” says Mautte.

Patricia Rehmer heads up the Behavioral Health Network at Hartford Healthcare.

“And the other thing I’m hearing recently is that the kids believe somehow that vaping pot is better for their lungs and that’s just not true. The jury is still out on the whole vaping issue,” says Rehmer.

Drinking alcohol, also taking on a different taste, which can start as early as 12 years old.

Mautte says, “Our students aren’t just experimenting with alcohol, they are drinking to get drunk.”

“I don’t think there’s a good understanding of how dangerous that is,” says Rehmer, “that you can actually overdose from too much alcohol.”

Opiate use us not going away anytime soon.

Buccaro is the Executive Director of Project Courage, where adolescents and young adults come for treatment.

“Early on, you can talk about things in terms of socially being accepted. They see other kids doing it. They want to be part of the popular crowd. But also I think a big motive is the level of stress we’re seeing with a lot of our adolescents,” he said.

The low cost of heroin tightens that stranglehold.

“Once you get into the point you are using heroin the motive becomes more about I need to be okay, I need to be normal,” says Buccaro.

The prescription pill exchange is increasingly happening one-on-one.

“They just talk one-on-one with each other. I have this and you should try this. I’ll give you two of this for one of that,” said Mautte.

There is a downward trend among high schoolers for opioids, not so among young adults.

“If we look at our admissions for example, it’s the 18 to 26 years old that are truly, we are seeing just huge numbers,” Rehmer says.

The opioid crisis could involve anything from pain to attention deficit disorder medications.

When it comes to marijuana, Mautte says, “Students often say it reduces their anxiety, but research actually shows it can increase that anxiety over time.”

She says smoking pot could start as early as 7th grade.

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