Group conducts survey about teen substance use

A Vashon group working to address youth substance abuse is conducting an Island-wide survey of adults in an effort to assess community attitudes about teen drinking and drug use.

The survey by the Vashon Alliance to Reduce Substance Abuse (VARSA) went live last week, said consultant Ed Swan. Already, he said, the group has about 400 responses — well on its way to its goal of 500 to 600 completed surveys.

“It looks like we’ll have really strong numbers to base our analysis on,” he said.

Swan said the group is trying to get the word out about the survey but, at the same time, not to talk too much about it publicly — so as not to skew responses.

The goal is to assess adult perceptions about teen drinking — how tolerant they feel about the issue or how serious they think it is, as well as their attitudes about adult alcohol and marijuana use and their sense of community perceptions.

The survey is completely anonymous, he said. As a result, he said, he and others involved in the effort hope people will answer the survey honestly and freely.

“The data show that kids think that the community doesn’t care about their use and that they won’t get caught. And even if they do, … the consequences aren’t there,” he said. “We’re hoping (this survey) will provide us with harder data. We’re trying to affirmatively find out if that is in fact the case.”

The survey will likely wrap up by the end of March. Next week, the group overseeing the effort hopes to take a preliminary look at the responses and make sure — based on the demographic information at the end of the questionnaire — that the sample includes people at all income levels and at various stages in their lives, Swan said.

Meanwhile, Swan said, he and others are using every email list they can think of to get the word out about the survey, hoping to cast their net wide. He recently went to the Vashon Maury Community Food Bank and handed the survey to people waiting in line. They also have a Spanish-language version of the survey.

“We’re trying to catch all the different angles,” he said.

The survey is the latest effort by VARSA, a multi-year effort funded by the federal government to try to reverse the Island’s high rate of teen alcohol and drug use. The group’s goal is to reduce teen substance use by addressing the community factors and attitudes that lead to teen drug and alcohol use.


VARSA’s survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. Paper copies (including a Spanish version) are available at the Vashon Pharmacy, the Vashon Library, Café Luna, Vashon Maury Community Food Bank, Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie and the Burton Coffee Stand.

For more information about VARSA, visit its website or call project coordinator Luke McQuillin at 463-5511.


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