14 percent of students misused prescription drugs within the past year or had used illicit drugs in the past; drug misuse among gay, lesbian and bisexual students was twice that of heterosexual students; transgender youth were three times more likely to misuse opioids compared to non-transgender youth
ThriveNYC and the Department of Education offer free and immediate options to meet mental health and substance use disorder needs
June 29, 2017 — The Health Department today released an Epi Data Brief on drug use among New York City public high school students, with research specifically on use according to sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2015, the prevalence of prescription drug misuse in the past 12 months was higher among gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) youth (16 percent) and youth who are not sure about their sexual orientation (19 percent), compared with heterosexual youth (8 percent). Youth who are not sure about their sexual orientation (15 percent) and GLB youth (12 percent) were more than twice as likely to misuse opioids compared with heterosexual youth. Transgender youth (21 percent) were three times more likely to misuse opioids compared with non-transgender youth in 2015 (7 percent). The data brief also reports on substance use by public high school students overall. The 2015 data show that 14 percent of public high school students in New York City misused prescription drugs within the past year or had lifetime use of illicit drugs. Misuse of prescription opioid analgesic medications in the past year and any use of illicit drugs such as heroin, ecstasy, and cocaine did not change from 2013 to 2015. The data show that prescription drug use varies among gender and sexual orientation groups.
The de Blasio Administration has made the expansion of mental health services and destigmatization of mental health issues a priority. Under ThriveNYC, the City offers a range of substance use and mental health services to all public school students, and with the new initiative HealingNYC — a $38 million annual investment at full ramp-up – the City is aiming to reduce overdose deaths by opioids by promoting judicious prescribing of opioids, increasing access to naloxone and connecting New Yorkers to medication-assisted treatment, among other public health and public safety approaches. The full Epi Data Brief can be found here (PDF).
“‘It’s like walking through a hailstorm’ said the mother of a gender non-conforming student, describing the hostile environment that LGBT youth faced in 2015. Data affirms that youth who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in NYC public schools experience enormous social pressures — like bullying, discrimination and abandonment — which diminishes their self-worth and encourages unhealthy behavior. The prevalence of drug misuse among this particular youth population is truly disheartening. I am committed to furthering the efforts of ThriveNYC and working with City agency partners and community-based organizations to bring strength and wellness to our minority youth communities,” said First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray, who leads the city’s mental health and substance misuse efforts.
“The use of illicit drugs is not limited to any one age group or demographic, and its prevalence among young New Yorkers cannot be ignored,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The misuse of prescription drugs among gay, lesbian and bisexual students is especially concerning. We have made a commitment to this community with mental health and substance use programs that will help save lives.”
The Department of Education takes a multifaceted approach to providing students with support to increase awareness of, prevent, and address substance misuse. Drug use awareness is included in the health education curriculum, and students can access the DOE’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Specialists program, which provides a range of prevention and intervention services to students in grades K-12. The DOE also partners with City agencies and nonprofit organizations that are on the forefront of substance misuse prevention.
Epi Data Brief highlights
The Health Department offers adolescent substance use disorder treatment programs for ages 14 to 24, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence. Treatment providers can be searched using the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator.
Under ThriveNYC, the City has expanded its range of mental health services for high school students and LGBTQ youth:
“I remember too well the crack epidemic, when drugs were destroying young lives at shocking rates. We are fortunate to have made tremendous progress in the last few decades, though these numbers show there’s still more work to do,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “In particular, the statistics showing LGBT youth at higher risk of prescription drug or opioid abuse show we must do more to build an inclusive, accepting city that’s as supportive as possible to every young person growing up here, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“The data show that LGBTQ youth are a population particularly vulnerable to substance use disorder, and it's critical that we devote additional resources to provide education, treatment and vital support services to this community," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. "In addition to this lifesaving outreach, it's vital that we continue to implement inclusive policies that reinforce our commitment to anti-discrimination.”
“The data on opioid and substance use among gay, lesbian, and bisexual students is alarming,” said Council Member Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health. “While we know that substance abuse affects New Yorkers regardless of their demographics, this data will help us find and promote effective policies to treat and combat substance abuse. We must make sure we’re implementing programs that will educate students and teacher on how to stop substance abuse before it starts, while arming New Yorkers with resources to combat substance abuse that will save lives.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez, (347) 396-4177