When it comes to youth alcohol and drug use, Colorado is making progress in some areas even as new challenges emerge, according to a comprehensive survey of Colorado teens released today.
“The landscape of risks facing Colorado youth is changing,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. “The growth of vaping is an example of how developing threats demand increased youth prevention education. The new research demonstrates that this effort needs to start at earlier ages and requires all of us—parents, educators, civic leaders and youth themselves—to work to mitigate the risks and reinforce positive factors that protect our youth.”
“While there are concerning challenges, the data show us that we have a great opportunity to help equip our youth with the tools to make good decisions,” said Kent MacLennan, executive director of Rise Above Colorado, which commissioned the survey with support from a grant through the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health. Rise Above Colorado (www.riseaboveco.org) is a statewide nonprofit organization that empowers teens to live free of drug misuse and addiction.
The newly released research, conducted in 2018, builds on similar statewide studies conducted since 2009 and most recently in 2016. Survey responses were professionally gathered by HealthCare Research over the phone and online, compiling responses from more than 600 youth based on a representative sample of the entire state.
Key findings include:
Perceived Risk of Substance Use
A lower perception of risk is of concern because it can make youth more likely to use substances while a higher perception of risk can deter future use.
The Opportunity for Prevention in Middle School
Research shows that 90 percent of addictions start with use in the teenage years. Rise Above Colorado urges increased youth education including science-based information about the developing brain and the associated risks of using substances during adolescence, as well as skills to resist peer pressure.
Perception vs. Reality about Peer Substance Use
The overestimation of prevalence among peers can lead to increased use, while closing the gap between perceived and reported use has been proven to decrease substance use over time. Closing this gap and, instead, normalizing the fact that most youth are making healthy choices is the objective of Rise Above Colorado’s current messaging campaign to youth.
While smoking has been declining, Colorado youth are vaping nicotine at twice the national average, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In response to this emerging issue, Rise Above Colorado has launched an informational webpage about vaping in collaboration with local experts and authored by and for Colorado youth.
Other Key Indicators
The full Rise Above Colorado youth survey is available here.
Rise Above Colorado actively engages teens where they are the most – online. #IRiseAbove is a movement changing the conversation about teens in Colorado and the choices they make daily. Rise Above Colorado staff and Teen Action Council post inspirational, passion-filled photos and skill-building content across key social media platforms encouraging teens across the state to share and explore their own passions and inspirations to Rise Above.
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Rise Above Colorado