New Online Tool for High School Marijuana and Alcohol Users

Are you a teen who drinks or uses marijuana? Are you a parent concerned about your child’s habits, or a community member worried about teenage drug use in high schools?

A new, customized U-32 survey called “e-Checkup”, sponsored by Central Vermont New Directions Coalition, is a tool to help us be more aware of marijuana and alcohol use in teens.

The e-Checkup originated at San Diego State University and has been used in over 600 colleges and universities in the U.S and in other countries.

While U-32 has a biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey for students in TA regarding drug and alcohol use, the e-Checkup is different in many ways.

image02You can take it whenever you want, as often as you want, and use it as a way to track your habits, learn facts about drug and alcohol use among teens, set goals, and get help if you need it. You can identify your risk factors and see how you compare to your peers. People who do not drink or use marijuana are also encouraged to take it, as well as teachers, parents, and community members. You may learn how to help yourself or your friends.

To take the marijuana e-Checkup, click here. To take the alcohol e-Checkup, click here.

The e-Checkup is a great tool not just to be better informed about the consequences of marijuana and alcohol use in high schools, but it could also uncover why teens are turning to these substances. Along with asking specific questions about recent use of marijuana and alcohol, there are questions that help you pinpoint why you may be turning to this habit. Is it because you struggle with anxiety or depression? Are you experiencing family or relationship problems? Do you feel pressured by your friends to use these substances, or are you just bored? It is easy to say that using marijuana and alcohol is harmful during teenage years, but it is another to try to figure out the underlying problems of why teens are using them in the first place.

In recent years, marijuana use in teens has been a somewhat controversial topic. Ann Gilbert of the Central Vermont New Directions Coalition said “The idea that marijuana has been legalized in some states and decriminalized here in Vermont has made it seem less harmful or safer. There are a number of people that are feeling that it must be okay, or it’s not such a big deal, and some of the concerns we’ve heard from the community are that parents don’t have all the newer information about marijuana. Students take health classes in high school and they may learn about it that way, but it’s really not enough to be up-to-date on what the new findings are and helping people take a look at their usage and how it compares to other people.”

image01Many students may feel pressured to drink or try marijuana because they believe that most of the students in their grade are doing it, when in fact, the e-Checkup shows that is not true at all (take the survey to see the facts!). Similarly, a teen who, for example, drinks so much that they black out may think that that’s what all their friends are doing, but by taking the survey, it could show the teen that only a very small percentage of their age group drink that much, which could encourage them to be more aware of their habits and make a change.

Ginny Burley, also of the New Directions Coalition, said “People always over-estimate how much other people are doing. They think ‘Well, everybody’s doing this’, when really it’s only around ten percent who are doing it. Thinking that everybody’s doing it makes you want to do it a little bit more, because people are trend-followers; if the trend is going down, like tobacco use, it’s less alluring than it would have been if it were going up and everybody was jumping on the bandwagon. That’s just human psychology.”

Gilbert and Burley believe that the e-Checkup is a useful tool to not only track habits and see statistics of other teens who are using, but to be more informed about new information regarding marijuana. Gilbert said, “We’ve learned so much about what the Surgeon General has said about tobacco use: cancer and many other health problems. People look at that and say ‘I want more out of my life than to cut it short with tobacco’, so we want people to have the same kind of information about marijuana”. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use in teens can cause problems with learning and memory, decision making, and could even lead to serious mental illnesses such as psychosis and schizophrenia in some teens. “Unfortunately, many kids don’t know the risks they’re taking with marijuana until it’s too late,” said Burley.

image00Anyone in the U-32 community (students, parents, teachers, community members) is strongly encouraged to take the e-Checkup. It is now easy to do through the U-32 website: simply go to ‘Student Services’ under the ‘Resources’ tab, and select ‘Life At U-32’ where the links to the marijuana e-Checkup and the alcohol e-Checkup can be accessed. You will be provided with an ID number that can be used to log in whenever you want to track your habits and set goals.

As a fun incentive, the Central Vermont New Directions Coalition is holding a competition at U-32, where every week students who have completed an e-Checkup will have the chance to win a $10 gift card for businesses such as Kurrle’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Positive Pie, iTunes, and more. A name will be required on the e-Checkup verification form at the end of the survey to enter the drawings, but no one except you will have access to your results. The verification form simply confirms that you took the survey and earned a spot in the drawing.

The first drawing will be on Monday, December 14. The winner will be announced in the afternoon announcements that Monday, and on the morning announcements on Tuesday. Winners will be announced every week and posted on the Chronicle! SO, TAKE THE SURVEY FOR A CHANCE TO WIN!