This week's report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation says there's been a decrease in substance abuse among teens in Mississippi. But as MPB's Jasmine Ellis reports experts say the picture on the ground is different.
The 2019 Kids Count Report says three percent of teens in Mississippi are abusing alcohol or drugs. Richard McMullan is children's services director with Region 8 Mental Health Services. He explains why the number of adolescents dealing with substance abuse could be much higher than what's included in the report.
"Even if in a certain community or school there is an openness to acknowledge the presence of that very quickly growing problem, the number of youth that actually admit to, more than you could substantiate, are using various alcohol and drug substances is often much lower than what the reality is," said McMullan.
Lack of attention from parents and influence from social media are some of the reasons that teens in the state are abusing alcohol or drugs says Andrew Breland. He is a licensed professional counselor with Grace Christian Counseling Center in Vicksburg. He says parents play an important role in creating a safe environment for youth to talk about substance abuse.
"It's up to the parents to make sure that they just explain the risks and that they understand that experimentation is going to happen," said Breland. "And whenever the kid starts thinking about experimenting then that's when it's important for the parents to say, 'Look we don't allow this and I really don't want you to be a part of this. But let's go ahead and look at what happens if you do this a,b,and c.'"
Experts say educating children at an early age about the dangers of alcohol and drugs might help decrease the rate of substance abuse among teens.