Survey Says! Health Department Poll Shows Teen Habits on Alcohol, Pot, Tobacco and Pills

In July, a young woman was critically injured in a Riva home during a teen drinking party. After she arrived at Anne Arundel Medical Center, Anne Arundel County Police went to the address and found a number of teens under the influence and broke up the party.

But just how many teens in the county are abusing drugs and alcohol? That is what a new survey set out to discover.

In releasing their Anne Arundel County (AAC) Department of Health 2013 Substance Use survey, researchers cited other recent police involvement in breaking up underage teen drinking parties, including one in March 2013 where a boy fell out of a window as the basis for wanting to determine drug and alcohol use in the county.

The AAC Department of Health, in conjunction with other state and local agencies, recently surveyed teens, 12 to 20 years old, to determine a baseline of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and prescription pill use. The survey results were released by the Health Department on Friday.

In the survey, students were sorted by zip code, giving a cross-section of drug and alcohol use by town. The survey was taken at various locations around the county, including high school athletic events, retail stores, malls and shopping centers, community gatherings and even at a ZUMBA class. Volunteers collected the data.



The findings for drug and alcohol usage in South County are listed above, sorted by zip code. The areas of Mayo, Friendship and Galesville are not included because the sample size was too small. The number next to the town name are the sample size of students queried for the survey.


In all 50 states, the legal drinking age is 21. Parents may give their own children alcohol legally for personal or religious beliefs, otherwise giving alcohol to a person under 21 is illegal. There are penalties for parents or other adults who provide alcohol to underage drinkers. In addition, tobacco is illegal for anyone under 18, as are marijuana and non-prescribed prescription drugs for anyone—under or over 18.

In 2012, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 26.6 percent of youth ages 12 to 20 drank alcohol over the previous month. This AAC Health Department survey found our county average at 27 percent, slightly higher than the national average. However, certain pockets show consumption rates significantly higher. For example, Crofton has a rate of 48 percent, with Riva not far behind at 44 percent.

Other parts of South County have lower rates than the average, with Harwood coming in at 18 percent and Gambrills at 15 percent. The story of tobacco, marijuana and prescription pill use is a mixed bag. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers used in the above chart:

Alcohol Tobacco Marijuana Prescription Pills
Churchton (18) 28% 17% 0% 0%
Crofton (50) 48% 28% 6% 6%
Davidsonville (56) 36% 11% 20% 2%
Deale (16) 31% 13% 6% 6%
Edgewater (163) 38% 15% 3% 3%
Harwood (27) 18% 11% 4% 0%
Gambrills (27) 15% 7% 0% 0%
Lothian (37) 37% 11% 8% 8%
Riva (16) 44% 13% 13% 0%
Shady Side (26) 24% 24% 0% 0%
Tracys (10) 20% 0% 10% 0%
West River (14) 21% 7% 0% 0%
AA Average (5,470) 27% 12% 14% 6%

Studies show that underage drinking and drug use has significant consequences. The Health Department survey cited that nearly 5,000 teens die each year as a direct result of drug and alcohol use. In addition, teens who drink tend to drink in excess. Binge-drinking incidents, defined as five or more drinks in a two-hour period for boys, are responsible for more than half of the 79,000 alcohol-related deaths in America. In addition, binge drinking can lead to other destructive outcomes including unwanted pregnancy, STDs, HIV, drunk driving and others.

The Partnership for Drug has posted the following Myths vs. Truths about underage drinking:

  • Myth: Providing alcohol to teens at home decreases the risk for continued drinking as teens get older, and subsequent drinking problems later in life.
    Truth: The opposite is true – parents should be aware that supplying alcohol to minors actually increases, rather than decreases the risk for continued drinking in the teenage years and leads to subsequent problem drinking later in life.
  • Myth: Young people from European cultures whose parents give them alcohol at an early age learn to drink more responsibly than their American counterparts.
    Truth: A greater percentage of European youth report drinking regularly (in the past 30 days) versus American youth, and for a majority of European countries, a greater percentage of young people report having been intoxicated before the age of 13 than is the case in the U.S. The World Health Organization cites global longitudinal studies that found the earlier young people start drinking, the more likely they are to experience alcohol-related injury and alcohol dependence later in life.
  • Myth: Some parents believe that being ‘too strict’ about adolescent drinking during high school will cause teens to drink more when they first leave the home and do not have as much parental oversight.
    New research from The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) reveals that teens who perceive their parents to be more permissive about alcohol use are MORE likely to abuse alcohol and to use other drugs.
  • Myth: Parents who serve alcohol to teenagers at home are under no legal jeopardy.
    Truth: A majority of states have civil and or criminal penalties—including Maryland—for adults who serve alcohol to underage kids at home.


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About Mitchelle Stephenson

I've gotta tell Mitchelle! Send your South County news tips, brag on your fab volunteers, talk traffic, police and fire or just say "howdy" to Mitchelle Stephenson, co-founding editor of the South River Source. or reach me in person on mobile: 410-353-4706.

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