Grand Futures reports a decline in teenage substance abuse | CraigDailyPress.com

Grand Futures reports a decline in teenage substance abuse

Grand Futures Prevention Coalition Director Desirae Pearcey shuffles through Healthy Kids Colorado Survey results from years past in her office at the Colorado Northwestern Community College Bell Tower Building. Pearcey and members of local law enforcement will host a town meeting April 10 in CNCC's Academic Building to discuss the most recent results of the survey as well as the overall topic of substance abuse.

Substance abuse is a difficult subject with adults, but when children and teenagers are factored in, there are even more details to take into consideration when trying to curb behaviors, and taking a serious approach to the issue is vitally important.

If you go…

Town hall meeting

6 to 7:30 p.m., April 10

Colorado Northwestern Community College, Room 185

— The event, hosted by Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, will include information about substance abuse and prevention for youths in the area, including presentations by local law enforcement. Teenagers, parents and other community members are encouraged to attend. For more information, call 970-824-5752.

Grand Futures Prevention Coalition will host a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Colorado Northwestern Community College to discuss the levels of substance abuse among young people within the community.

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Data released earlier this year from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey showed Moffat County High School students who filled out questionnaires during the 2012-13 school year had participated in less substance abuse than in 2009-10. The surveys, which are completely anonymous, ask students to divulge details about a number of topics, including how safe they feel at school or at home, sexual encounters, feelings of suicide and other things that might be affecting their lives.

Results within the category of substance abuse were very positive, said Desirae Pearcey, director of Grand Futures' Moffat County branch, with the percentage of kids engaging in heavy drinking, driving under the influence, marijuana usage, tobacco product consumption and abuse of prescription drugs trending down in each instance.

Ideally, the number of people of any age participating in these things would be zero, she said, but a more realistic expectation than hoping for a complete end to all substance abuse is to continue to address misconceptions about some of the materials that cause concern.

After speaking with multiple high school students, Pearcey has heard a continuing rationalization that if it's legal, it can't be bad for you, a philosophy she thinks is dangerous.

"I hear a lot of 'my parents are doing it, so it must not be that big of a deal,'" she said.

Besides just the arguments that alcohol and tobacco can't be too bad, another substance has joined their ranks.

Pearcey said Colorado's legalization of recreational marijuana sends a message that there is no downside to its usage.

"Kids' perceptions have really changed about it," she said.

Both Pearcey and MCHS resource officer Norm Rimmer, investigator for the Craig Police Department, continue to hear the argument that smoking pot has countless medical benefits, and while true for some, that doesn't make it a miracle cure without any side effects, Rimmer said.

He noted that a lack of regulation for cannabis from the Food and Drug Administration — due to still being viewed as illegal at the federal level — means those growing and cultivating weed crops have a great deal of leeway in what kinds of chemicals they use for the plants to increase potency.

Rimmer also will be discussing the threat of designer drugs, which can be especially tricky for law enforcement to track. Such drugs continue to pop up under different names and because of their chemical makeup being changed just slightly enough, they're often not technically illegal.

"We're kind of behind the curve on those," he said.

Rimmer said crystal meth remains something to watch out for in Northwest Colorado, as well as drugs such as heroin. A powerful derivative of this is known as krokodil, a drug on the rise in Russia in recent years, causing severe rotting of the skin wherever it's injected.

The Craig Police Department has not seen any local usage of this particular substance, but being aware of any kind of drugs is important, Rimmer said.

"They can come in through the West Coast or East Coast and make their way to the middle of the country," he said.

Kids who aim to get high while steering clear of heavy drugs like meth and heroin are still running the same risks. Taking dangerous dosages of prescription painkillers with the justification that they're safer because they're legal is a delusion, Rimmer said.

"You still really need to be careful about what you put in your body," he said.

Both Pearcey and Rimmer said they hope local teens, their parents and any other community members will pay heed to the details of the meeting because while Grand Futures and the police department can provide information, the future depends on those who want to listen and have an effect.

Pearcey said she plans to have the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey distributed to MCHS and Craig Middle School students this fall, hopefully seeing encouraging results with a wider age range.

"If anybody has any questions about the statistics, just let me know," she said.

For more information about Grand Futures, call 970-824-5752.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.

Healthy Kids Colorado Survey results

The following data was collected from Moffat County teens about their experience with substance abuse and related activities.

2009-10

Action — Percentage of students who admitted to participating

Binge-drinking — 32

Smoking — 25

Chewing tobacco — 25

Marijuana use — 22

Prescription pill misuse — 29

Driving under the influence — 14

2012-13

Action — Percentage of students who admitted to participating

Binge-drinking — 23

Smoking — 15

Chewing tobacco — 10

Marijuana use — 16

Prescription pill misuse — 20

Driving under the influence — 5

If you go…

Town hall meeting

6 to 7:30 p.m., April 10

Colorado Northwestern Community College, Room 185

— The event, hosted by Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, will include information about substance abuse and prevention for youths in the area, including presentations by local law enforcement. Teenagers, parents and other community members are encouraged to attend. For more information, call 970-824-5752.