KENDALLVILLE — For the most part, children in northeastern Indiana are using illegal drugs and alcohol at lower rates than their peers, but vaping remains a concern, according to Noble County Sheriff Max Weber.
The East Noble School Counseling Department and Noble County Sheriff’s Department presented a Drug Use in Children and Teens program Wednesday at East Noble Middle School.
Weber guided the 18 interested patrons in attendance through a PowerPoint presentation which included statistics on alcohol and drug use provided by Drug Free Noble County. Weber also brought various pieces of clothing which advertised the use of illegal drugs.
“If they’re advertising it, they’re more than likely participating,” Weber said.
Weber also had a baseball cap with an illegal drug symbol. But there was more to the hat than what could be observed from a casual glance.
“It’s got a lot of places to hide things,” Weber said. “You’ve got to look at your children’s clothing.”
The PowerPoint included pictures of what looked like soft drink containers. These containers have hidden compartments in which illegal substances can be stored.
“You’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on,” Weber said.
The statistics, gleaned from a 2018 survey, showed mostly positive news — with the exception of vaping.
Rates of vaping are second only to alcohol among substances surveyed, according to the data, with 17.6% of eighth graders, 32.3% of sophomores and 37.3% of seniors reporting past-year vaping.
Eighth graders cited flavoring as the main vaping use at 15.1%, following by nicotine (10.9%) and marijuana (4.4%).
Tenth graders reported identical rates of “just flavoring” and nicotine vaping (24.7%) and 12.4% of sophomores reported vaping marijuana.
Seniors reported vaping nicotine as their most prevalent use at 29.7%, followed by for flavoring alone at 25.7% and 13.1% for vaping marijuana.
Vaping, like smoking cigarettes, is illegal for those under the age of 18.
According to the 2018 Indiana Youth Survey, northeastern Indiana is beating the state averages for usage of vaping in the past month. Statewide, the average is 11.9% of eighth-graders reporting they had vaped in the last month, compared to 10.5% in northeastern Indiana.
The rate for 10th graders was 20.4% statewide, with northeastern Indiana sophomores reporting at 15.1%.
Statewide, just over 1-in-4 (28.6%) seniors reported vaping within the last month, while in northeastern Indiana, the number was 1-in-6 (16.6%).
The statistics show a significant drop in alcohol use by those surveyed compared to five years ago.
In 2013, 10.2% of eighth graders reported past-month use of alcohol. That number dropped to 8.2% in 2018. Past-month use of alcohol also dropped for sophomores (25.7% to 18.6%) and seniors (39.2% to 30.2%) in that time period.
One area of concern was Weber was binge drinking, with 6.4% of northeastern Indiana eighth-graders reported binge drinking in the past month. Statewide, the average was 4.7%.
“That threw me for a loop,” Weber said.
Northeastern Indiana sophomores and seniors reported less binge drinking than their statewide peers.
Eighth graders in northeastern Indiana also reported a higher marijuana past-month use at 8.2% compared to their statewide peers (8.2%). The rates for northeastern Indiana sophomore and seniors were lower than the state average.
The use of opioids remains a statewide concern. Weber said the easiest place for youngsters to find opioids to abuse is their parents’ medicine cabinets.
Education and a crack down on the number of prescriptions being written for opioids have led to a decrease in availability.
In 2010, 54.2% of seniors said that prescription opioids were easy available. In 2018, that number dropped to 32.5%.