Coalition Tallies, Analyzes Teen Substance Abuse in McKinley Park

Updated October 5, 2018

The McKinley Park Underage Drinking and Other Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (McK-UDOS) has completed its analysis of the latest Illinois Youth Survey data, resulting in a snapshot of teen alcohol and drug use in the McKinley Park neighborhood. Key findings include some statistically significant spikes in alcohol and cannabis use among teen girls, as well as a general perception among youth that their peers consume alcohol and pot much more than they actually do.

Substance Abuse Prevention Program Coordinator Vernalynne De La Rosa spelled out the analysis at the coalition’s regular meeting on September 13 at the offices of the Midwest Asian Health Association (MAHA), the sponsoring organization for the coalition. De La Rosa also related program updates to the attending coalition members, who comprised a wide range of community stakeholders and representatives from social services, law enforcement, academia, media and local non-profits.

De La Rosa said one statistically significant trend from the Illinois Youth Survey was heavier use of alcohol by neighborhood female teen-agers than males: 27.5 percent of 10th grade girls reported using alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 18.1 percent of 10th grade boys. In 12th grade, 32.7 percent of females reported drinking in the past 30 days, compared to 25.4 percent of 12th grade males.

Cannabis use was more evenly distributed by gender, with the exception of 12th grade girls, 21.9 percent of whom reported smoking pot in the past 30 days, compared to 14.3 percent of 12th grade boys.

The survey also found big differences in teens’ perception of their peers’ use of drugs and alcohol. In the McKinley Park neighborhood, more than 56 percent of high schoolers believe that over half of their peers have used alcohol in the past month. However, the survey found that only 26 percent of neighborhood high schoolers actually consumed alcohol in the past 30 days.

Likewise with cannabis, 63 percent of local high schoolers believe over half their peers have smoked in the past month. In reality, only 16.5 percent of local high schoolers reported consuming cannabis in the past 30 days.

The survey also touched on parent communication about substance use, including asking local teens if they were likely to be caught by their parents if they drank alcohol without permission. In 8th grade, about 43 percent of students said they would never get caught; by high school, nearly 60 percent reported they would never get caught.

All of the statistics come from the Illinois Youth Survey, a statewide program that queries students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades on substance use. Part of McK-UDOS operations has involved promotion of survey-taking at local schools and providing assistance in administering the test. The survey is a key component of establishing benchmarks and measuring the effectiveness of the coalition’s programs and outreach, De La Rosa said.

The coalition meeting also featured updates on its Summer Youth Program, which engaged 22 local youth in regular art, volunteering and educational activities. De La Rosa said their efforts to start a youth coalition resulted in a dozen sign-ups so far, and they’re continuing outreach to neighborhood schools and local organizations.

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