A 2012 youth survey in Tazewell County showed that a majority of teens had tried either illegal or legal substances before the age of 16.
Sara Sparkman is with the Tazewell County Health Department. She says teens continue to abuse alcohol, smoking and prescriptions drugs, but she says marijuana use is also on the rise.
“Marijuana is becoming much more popular. Two years ago, the number of children and youth smoking marijuana has increased in Tazewell County. Underage drinking went down, but marijuana use went up. So, those are some of the things that we want people to be aware of, " says Sparkman.
"You know, talk to your kids; that’s the most important thing that adults and parents can do. Make sure they know how you feel about drug use and decisions that they’re making."
Sparkman says 16-percent of tenth graders used marijuana in Tazewell County over a year-long period while 24-percent of seniors used the drug.
Ruthie Gergeni is with the state group, Prevention First. She says it’s important for parents to teach their kids that marijuana is just as harmful as other substances.
“The adolescent brain isn’t formed. It’s still forming and will still be forming until your early to mid-20’s. So, anything that you do that will have an impact on your brain as an adolescent while it’s still developing, it’s detrimental and any damage could last a lifetime,” says Gergeni.
More information on substance abuse prevention programs is available at prevention.org.