Surveys show that youth are using substances at a higher rate than parents believe they are. Even if your teen may not be using drugs and alcohol, they are exposed to them. A recent survey of Wilton middle and high school students shows high rates of binge drinking, e-cigarette use and marijuana use among upperclassmen.

Parents can learn more at an educational event sponsored by Wilton Youth Council, Silver Hill Hospital, Positive Directions and Wilton Library on Tuesday, Feb. 23, from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Wilton Library. Wendy Bentivegna, grant director for Positive Directions will share survey results and briefly discuss e-cigarettes and binge drinking, and then she will answer questions about the survey with Kristin Dineen, LCSW, Wilton Public Schools outreach counselor. John Douglas, MD, MBA, clinical director of the outpatient addiction program at Silver Hill Hospital will share information about marijuana.

Given that substance use is more common than parents think, the event sponsors say it is important for parents to maintain open communication with their teens and know how to get help when they are worried that their child might have a problem. They say it’s also important for parents to educate themselves about substances, like e-cigarettes and different strains of marijuana, that didn’t exist during their own teen years. Douglas will explain more about the dangers of these substances and discuss the warning signs of addiction disorders.

“As parents, we need to understand the risks,” said Vanessa Elias, chair of Wilton Youth Council. “I recently learned that e-cigarettes are not the safe alternative I thought they were. In fact they are unregulated and have been found to contain toxic ingredients, along with nicotine. And the marijuana kids are smoking now is many times more potent than the pot of our youth.”

Event organizers are proponents of encouraging open communication between parents and teens, and say it’s an effective tool in the arsenal of discouraging substance use.

“We need to discuss substance use with our children. We all have the opportunity to influence kids to make healthy choices not just in middle and high school, but in college, too,” Vanessa continued. “The survey shows us that parental disapproval of the consumption of alcohol is a huge deterrent for most students.”  Additionally, the data revealed that students believe having friends who don’t drink alcohol is a significant factor in deciding not to consume alcohol themselves.

Attendees should register online in advance. Wilton Library is located at 137 Old Ridgefield Rd..