EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 14, 2014

Report: Drug-use rate is high for Mass. youth

Behavioral health study also looks at alcohol, cigarette use, depression

By Andy Metzger
State House News Service

---- — BOSTON — Massachusetts youth use illicit drugs more than their counterparts across the country, according to a federal report, which found Bay Staters between the ages of 12 and 17 also do not perceive great risk in use of marijuana and weekly drinking.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Behavioral Health Barometer found 7.4 of Massachusetts youth smoked cigarettes in 2011 to 2012, a slightly higher rate than the country and down from earlier years.

The report found 8.3 percent of state youth between the ages of 12 and 17 experienced a major depressive episode within the past year, a slightly lower rate than the rest of the country. About 57 percent of those individuals received treatment, the report found.

The Association for Behavioral Healthcare, which promotes community-based mental health and addiction treatment services, highlighted the report, noting the lack of treatment revealed by the survey.

“Only 42.6 percent of the approximately 37,000 youths . . . living in Massachusetts who had at least one major depressive episode within the year prior to being surveyed had any treatment for that episode,” the organization wrote in an overview of the report.

The percentage of Massachusetts adults who experienced suicidal thoughts between 2011 and 2012 was 3.9 percent, about the same as the national average. A little less than half – 49 percent – of Massachusetts adults with any mental illness received treatment.

The report, the first of its kind, used data from surveys sponsored by SAMHSA, including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde wrote in a foreword.

Massachusetts youth reported using illicit drugs within the past month at a 12.3 percent rate, above the national rate of 9.8 percent. The state’s youth illicit drug use rate is higher than Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and New York. Youth in Rhode Island and Vermont used illicit drugs at rates over 15 percent.

Among 12 to 17-year-olds in Massachusetts, 14.1 years was the average age of first using marijuana, 13.3 was the average age of first smoking a cigarette, and 13.5 was the average age of first drinking alcohol. Non-medical use of psychotherapeutics, such as pain relievers, stimulants or sedatives, was the earliest on average, occurring at 13.3 years.

About 80 percent of Massachusetts youth perceived no great risk of smoking marijuana once a month in 2012, up from 75.6 percent in 2008, and several points above the national average. More Bay State youth believe in the safety of monthly marijuana than their counterparts in Colorado and Washington.