71% of Youth Believe Substance Use Has Increased during covid-19
Know the Truth (KTT), the substance use prevention program of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, is adapting its curriculum for the 2020-21 academic year. In addition to incorporating information on the latest youth substance use trends such as vaping, the program is also addressing the specific needs of Gen Z and adding virtual capabilities. Schools now have the option to host in-person presentations, live virtual presentations or virtual presentations that students can access at any time.
“Every year our presenters speak at more than 160 high schools and middle schools throughout the state, reaching an estimated 60,000 students,” says Mika Nervick, prevention program coordinator for Know the Truth. “While we will no longer be in person at every school, our virtual capabilities are allowing us to reach even more students across the state, including in outstate Minnesota, where we have not been able to hold presentations previously.”
Prevention education is proving to be more important than ever during the twin crises of COVID-19 and social unrest. In a survey of youth conducted over the summer, Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge found that 71% believe that youth substance use has increased during COVID-19. Additionally, over half of youth reported using or considering using substances to cope with mental health struggles and 47% have used or thought about using a new substance since the start of the pandemic.
Since the Know the Truth program began more than a decade ago, it has seen significant success in helping prevent substance use among Minnesota’s young people. The program utilizes a peer-to-peer format, where Know the Truth presenters — often just a few years older than the students — share their personal struggles with substance use.
During the 2019-20 school year, Know the Truth conducted surveys following presentations. After hearing the presentation, 87% of students said they would not use tobacco or nicotine until the legal age of use, and 71% would not use alcohol before age 21.