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Metro Drug Coalition hosts town hall on substance misuse among young people

A recent survey from the Knox County Health Department showed around one in six students used an illegal drug over the previous 30 days.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Metro Drug Coalition hosted a town hall to address substance misuse among young people Thursday night.

During the town hall, they said that the most common illicit drugs they have seen on college campuses are marijuana, cocaine and Adderall. Recently, the Knox County Health Department conducted a survey asking anonymous students about their mental health and drug use.

The survey found that around one in six students in high school used illegal drugs over the past 30 days. Almost one in five said they drank alcohol over the previous 30 days — a significant increase compared to the previous survey.

Karen Pershing, the executive director of MDC, said that important conversations with teens about substance use can start with something as simple as a question.

"Being that askable parent, and that no subject is off limits, is extremely important," she said during the town hall. "It's good for a parent to have that poker face and literally not be reactive when they ask you something. Because, again, parents are the key."

The panel was made up of substance use and mental health experts from across the East Tennessee community. They took questions from the public that were submitted online.

One expert said conversations about substance misuse can start when children are still young, building off conversations during their development about healthy eating and exercise.

"Whatever you put in your body, you want to put in good things," she said. "We are, again, teaching kids to have a healthy respect for their minds and their bodies."

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