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DHHS: Most Nebraska drug/alcohol stats below national average

DHHS: Most Nebraska drug/alcohol stats below national average

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About a third of high school seniors across the United States report using an illicit drug sometime in the past year. In Nebraska, just over one in five high school students reported drinking alcohol in the past month. And while more than 20 percent nationally reported smoking marijuana in the past month, just one in nine Nebraska high school students (11.7 percent) admitted to using in the past 30 days, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) is January 25-29. NDAFW is a health observance week for teens that aims to SHATTER THE MYTHS™ about drug and alcohol abuse. The goal of the week, launched in 2010, is to link students with experts to counteract the myths about drugs and alcohol that teens get from the internet, television, movies, music or from friends.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Division of Behavioral Health recently released new mental health and substance abuse statistics as part of its Statewide Epidemiological Profile. The Profile was created through the help of a workgroup composed of members from four state agencies and representatives from community coalitions and groups in Nebraska. Data sources include the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2013/14.

According to David DeVries, MS, epidemiology surveillance coordinator for the Division of Behavioral Health, parents are the first line of defense when it comes to preventing substance abuse among young people.

“Children are listening and they are heavily influenced when parents communicate their expectations in relation to use of alcohol and drugs,” DeVries said. “Surveys have shown over and over that parents are the number one influence on a child’s decision to not use alcohol and drugs. As important to influencing their children is the amount of time parents spend actively involved in their children’s lives.”

DeVries said data contained in the Epidemiological Profile includes information on binge drinking, cigarette smoking, drinking and driving, depression and suicide.

For instance:

* Binge drinking among Nebraska residents was higher than the national average, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). In 2014, 20.3 percent of Nebraska adults reported binge drinking within the last month. Nebraska high school students, however, reported lower binge drinking rates than their national counterparts, 13.6 percent compared to 20.8 percent.

* Since 2011, cigarette smoking declined among high school students and adults. In 2013, just short of 11 percent of Nebraska high school students admitted to smoking cigarettes.

* Alcohol use (including binge drinking) and cigarette smoking among Nebraska high school students declined steadily since the 1990s. In 1991, 53.4 percent students reported drinking alcohol within the last 30 days. That number decreased to 22.1 percent in 2013. Binge drinking, reported at 36.9 percent in 1991, fell to 13.6 percent in 2013. Cigarette smoking dropped from 29.2 percent in 1991 to 10.9 percent in 2013.

* In 2013, nearly seven percent of high school students in Nebraska reported driving after drinking within the past month.

* In 2014, Nebraska adults were more likely than adults nationally to report that they had operated a motor vehicle while alcohol-impaired over the past 30 days (2.5 percent to 1.7 percent).

Depression appears to be on the increase in the state. From 2012-2013, one in 15 (6.6 percent) Nebraska residents reported a major depressive episode in the past year. In 2013, 220 deaths were attributed to suicide, up from 170 in 2009, and making it the 10th highest cause of death.

The Division of Behavioral Health currently funds 35 prevention strategies in 64 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. The Statewide Epidemiological Profile is on the DHHS Website at

For more information on alcohol and substance abuse prevention and treatment, go to


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