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FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY

-New Report Gives Voice to Local Youth on Their Attitudes and Experiences Using Alcohol, Drugs and Other Substances–

(CITY OF KAWARTHA LAKES) – A new report finds many marginalized youth in the City of Kawartha Lakes are frequent users of alcohol, tobacco, energy drinks, marijuana, hallucinogens and other substances.

The report, entitled False Security, was prepared by the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit and the John Howard Society, with funding provided through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the provincial Tobacco Control Area Network. The report is based on 50 responses received from local youth ages 13 to 20 years in the City of Kawartha Lakes between last fall and this past April. Many of these youth are clients of the John Howard Society, who face challenges around homelessness or legal issues.

The report finds at least one-quarter of the local youth surveyed say they started using alcohol, tobacco and marijuana before the age of 10 years. The survey also finds many youth question the “mixed messages” being sent about substances such as energy drinks and prescription drugs, which are considered ‘harmful’ for them but which they note are readily accessible in the community.

“The False Security report is a good snapshot of youth substance use and attitudes in our community,” says Emily Tilsworth, co-author of the report and Youth Justice Program Coordinator with the John Howard Society of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton. “Getting input directly from youth can help us tailor programs and services that will engage youth and address substance use concerns in our area.”

Calling the report ‘False Security’ was deliberate, says Bridget McFarthing, the other co-author and a Health Promoter with the HKPR District Health Unit. “There is false sense of security at a couple of levels,” she notes. “One is that the community is not ready to admit there is a substance misuse issue in the City of Kawartha Lakes. Second, many local youth do not realize the risks they face by using substances. On both counts, we need to raise awareness so we can work towards finding meaningful solutions for everyone.”

Among the report’s other key findings:

  • Approximately two-thirds of respondents feel anxiety and say they have no voice in their community.
  • Almost every respondent admits to using marijuana, tobacco, energy drinks and alcohol at one time. Just over half of youth say they use painkillers/opioids, while 46 per cent say they use stimulants. Approximately 20 to 30 per cent of youth surveyed have used prescription drugs such as anti- depressants, anti-psychotics and anti-anxiety medication.
  • Many youth overestimate their personal knowledge of substances, and underestimate the impact of these substances on their health. For example, many youth cannot identify why tobacco is harmful to them. The risks of alcohol are also not well understood. Binge drinking occurs often among survey respondents, with “drinking to the point of intoxication” being a common goal for most youth.

When it comes to the risk of using certain substances, youth view depressants, stimulants, and prescription drugs as the most risky. The use of energy drinks and marijuana is seen by youth as being less dangerous.

In response to the report, a ‘Dear Kawartha Lakes Youth’ video project will be created over the coming months, Tilsworth says. Local youth will be asked to produce all aspects of the video. The premise for the video is that local ‘youth actors’ would share the False Security Project findings and harm reduction strategies with other Kawartha Lakes youth. Any youth ages 16 to 18 years who are interested in participating in the video as consultants, script advisors, actors, musicians or filming and editing crew members are asked to e-mail Tilsworth at etilsworth@jhscklh.on.ca.

For more information on the False Security report, call the John Howard Society at (705) 328-0472 or the Health Unit at (705) 324-3569. A full copy of the report is available at www.hkpr.on.ca under ‘Healthy Youth – Substance Misuse.’

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For media inquiries, contact:

Emily Tilsworth, Youth Justice Program Coordinator, John Howard Society of Kawartha Lakes & Haliburton, (705) 328-0472,

or Bridget McFarthing, Health Promoter, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569.

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