Thursday, August 7, 2014

New survey documents youth marijuana use, need for prevention

Dr. Larry Wolk
Fewer high school students in Colorado think using marijuana is risky.

Preliminary results from the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey show the percentage of students who perceived a moderate or great risk from marijuana use declined from 58 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2013.

The survey also shows cigarette use among high school students trending downward, at a faster pace than marijuana. Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment noted that public smoking bans, tobacco taxes, awareness campaigns and enforcement of underage tobacco sales account for the continued decrease in underage cigarette smoking.

“We know what works to protect young people from unhealthy substances,” Wolk said. “As with tobacco, youth education prevention campaigns will help ensure adult legalization of marijuana in Colorado does not impact the health of Colorado kids.”

One in five Colorado high school students used marijuana in the past 30 days, and more than a third have used it at some point in their lives, the survey shows. Thirty-day marijuana use fell from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013, and lifetime use declined from 39 percent to 37 percent during the same two years. None of the declines shown in the preliminary data represent a statistically significant drop in rates.

But health experts worry that the normalization of marijuana use in Colorado could lead more young people to try it.

"If we want Colorado to be the healthiest state in the nation, then we need to make sure our youngest citizens understand the risks of using potentially harmful substances," said Dr. Wolk. "Later this month, we'll launch a youth prevention campaign that encourages kids not to risk damaging their growing brains by experimenting with marijuana."

While studies show using marijuana has an effect on brain development, the extent of that effect will take years to determine conclusively. The campaign is designed to grab kids’ attention, present them with the existing science and empower them to make informed decisions.

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey collects anonymous health information from Colorado middle and high school students every other year. In 2013, the state departments of health, education, and human services launched a unified version of the survey to approximately 40,000 randomly-selected students from more than 220 middle and high schools. Final state and regional results will be available this fall at http://www.chd.dphe.state.co.us/ .


For more information, contact Dave Brendsel at the health department.

No comments:

Post a Comment