Groton teens often overestimate their peers’ drug and alcohol use, according to a recent survey that also reveals a majority of those teens said they don’t drink or use marijuana.
The results of the 2018 Groton Youth Survey are posted around Groton schools to start a conversation among students and with their parents about substance use and peer pressure.
One poster reads, “88 percent of Fitch High School students don’t drink alcohol.” Another has the text, “99% of Groton teens don’t abuse prescription medication.”
The statistics from the anonymous survey, conducted by the Groton Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (GASP), also show many students overestimate how much their classmates drink or do drugs.
“If teens think most of their peers are using drugs, they may be more likely to just go ahead and do it. That may be the easier choice for them,” said GASP coordinator Carolyn Wilson. “If they know that that’s not true, and most kids are making healthy choices, they’re less likely to participate.”
Wilson said the survey is given to students from seventh through 12th grades and has been conducted every two years since 2000. The results show alcohol, cigarette and marijuana use are down.
This prompted a new social norms poster campaign, which had input from students, as a way to start a conversation between peers or with student and their parents.
“You can say ‘Hey, I saw a poster as I walked into the school picking you up and there’s something I wanted to talk to you about,’” Wilson said.
More than 1,300 Groton students participated including Groton-resident students from Grasso Technical High School and the Marine Science Magnet High School.
Esther Pendola has a sixth grader at Cutler Middle School who was too young to take the survey. But she starts the conversation about drug use with her children early.
“We actually do foster care. So for us our kids get to see first-hand what drugs and alcohol can ultimately do to a family,” Pendola said.
She applauds the Groton School District for engaging in more frequent and open conversations. But she’s also surprised by the survey statistics.
“I don’t know if the interventions have been super effective, or maybe (students are) not being totally transparent,” Pendola said.
According to Wilson, students are told the survey is completely anonymous and can’t be traced back to them, plus it’s not sponsored by the school districts. Surveys where students were believed to be dishonest were excluded.