One in Ten Colorado Teens Abuse Drugs

A recent study published by the Kids Count Data Book revealed that an alarming number of teens in Colorado abuse substances and are at risk of becoming addicts and needing substance abuse treatment in adulthood. The study showed that 10% of those aged 12-17 in Colorado abuse substances, be it alcohol, prescription drugs or synthetic drugs. This places Colorado third for states with the highest rate of teen substance abuse, after New Mexico and Montana.

Some factors that cause 1 in 10 Colorado teens to abuse drugs include a lack of education and prevention, accessibility to drugs and perceived alternatives to reported “boredom.” According to Jim Schrant, a DEA official, teen drug use is especially prominent in western Colorado. He says, “Teens have been involved in a lot of different drugs here in western Colorado, including meth and heroin.” Since various factors play into the high statics of abuse, there is not one “silver bullet” to address the problem – “It has to be an issue of vigilance and awareness,” says Schrant.

A1998 study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) revealed that early drug use is associated a with much higher risk of addiction in adulthood. Another study by Dr. Andrew Chambers of Yale University explains why; A teenager’s brain is not fully formed – especially the part of the brain that controls impulse but the “reward” part of their brains are fully, or even overly developed. For example, during the teenage years there is more dopamine released in the brain when they experience something pleasurable. This sparks a greater drive to repeat the action that led to the experience. In short, activities that increase dopamine are repeated because they send a message to the brain that says “that felt good!” The study explains that teens have more ”feel good” chemicals circling around because it encourages teens to do more and experience more in order to develop the brain more.

While this is occurring, the part of the brain that uses logic to weigh risks or control impulses are still developing. This results in greater experimentation with drugs among teens because consequences aren’t heavily weighed. The experimentation is then likely to lead to addiction. Although there is no “silver bullet” the “vigilance and awareness” that Schrant suggests can be applied to programs on drug prevention that start early – before youth become teenagers. This is because the longer that adolescents can delay alcohol and other drug use, the less their chance of becoming addicted as adults and needing drug treatment programs.

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