Recently, I received the heads up that I should attend a meeting in Aspen, Colorado to be held at the Little Nell Hotel and presented by; The Buddy Program, empowering youth through mentoring experiences in order to achieve their full potential; The Valley Marijuana Council, creating a cohesive community approach to facilitate the safe, responsible and successful inception of recreational marijuana into the Aspen/Pitkin County community; and Community Heath Initiatives, promoting healthy behavior by sponsoring workplace and community programs and providing outpatient counseling to youth and adults. The title of the meeting was to be, “Talking to your Kids About Marijuana Health: Effects and Available Resources,” and so I went.
I sat behind Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and amongst less than a handful of parents and listened to Erin Flynn, Retail Marijuana and Youth Prevention Coordinator for the State of Colorado, alert us to the important resource websites for adolescent marijuana and substance use information, SpeakNowColorado.org and Coloradogov.com. Flynn affirmed that the conversations about drugs and alcohol must begin with your child between the ages of 9 -13, when they still view you as their role model and are listening, and emphasized the importance of reaching your children BEFORE they reach their freshman year.
- Teach them at an early age how to talk to adults if they need help or have questions, and how to say no.
- Talk about second hand smoke and how both marijuana and cigarette smoke is bad.
- Teach them refusal skills and how to talk to adults if they need help.
- Talk about the risks and health effects and how it can get them into trouble at school:
- Regular marijuana use for adolescents and adults is associated with impaired learning, math and memories and reading achievement, even 20 days after use.
- As they get older tell them the legal consequences such as; losing your drivers license and how any federal or state drug conviction, whether it be for the possession, conspiring to sell or sale of illegal drugs, can disqualify a student from receiving federal student aid grants and loans.
- Ask them what they think about marijuana and about the kids who use it.
- Decide how you will talk to them about whether you have used marijuana or other substances.
Next, Executive Director of CHI, Shelley Evans opened her presentation by stating, “I’m scared to death to give you the data but please do not go running to the superintendent or sheriff and police chief with your fears. It is not somebody else’s issue. It’s ours, as parents.”
“Hot off the press” Evans presented the 2015 data collected from surveys given to Aspen High School and Aspen Middle School students (see below) by Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD), the leading international nonprofit provider of school-based substance abuse prevention services. The room grew quiet:
2015 Local Student Data Marijuana Use: 8th – 12th Graders:
**U.S. averages/Aspen averages
- Marijuana use by Aspen 8th graders is below U.S. averages for past-12-months (13%/9%), and past-30-days measures (7%/4%)
- Marijuana use by Aspen 10th graders is higher than U.Sl averages for past-12-months (30%/34%), and past-30-days measure (18%/22%).
- Marijuana use by Aspen 12th graders far exceeds U.S. averages for past-12-months (36%/63%), and past-30-days measures (23%/44%).
- The number of students reporting that they typically never use marijuana decreases with age, from 91% of 8th graders to 37% of 12th graders.
2015 Local Student Data Alcohol Use: 8th – 12th graders
- Alcohol use by Aspen 8th graders is lower than U.S. averages for past-12-months (22%/19%), and past-30-days (10%/8%).
- Alcohol use by Aspen 10th graders is higher than U.S. averages for past 12-months (47%/55%), far exceeds U.S. averages for past-30-days (28%/43%).
- Alcohol use by Aspen 12th graders far exceeds U.S. averages for past-12-months (62%/77%) and past-30-days (39%/57%).
- Past-30-days alcohol use rise from 8% in 8th grade to 57% in 12th grade.
- Of students who drank within the past 30 days, 46% (61 students) consumed 5 or more drinks in a row on a least 1 of those occasions (that’s called binge drinking).
- The more a student drinks, the more likely he or she is to have used other drugs.
Aspen High School 2015/2016 Concerns:
- 11th-12th graders’ use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco is higher than Colorado and U.S. averages.
- 12th graders’ use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, marijuana, cocaine and LSD is higher than Colorado and national averages.
- 19% of Aspen students say that they have used alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs at home WITH a parent or guardian knowing.
- For 11th and 12th graders, this figure rises to 29% and 41%, respectively.
- 33% of Aspen students say that they have used alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs at home WITHOUT a parent or guardian knowing.
- For 11th and 12th graders, this figure rises to 61% and 54%, respectively.
Evans ended her presentation by stating something extremely powerful, “There is recent research that indicates that when students leave home for college their actual marijuana use at college is affected more by whether you as a parent approve or disapprove of it; whether you did or didn’t monitor them while they were in high school and while they are at college, more than any other factor including; their peers, their environment and their perceptions of use. Altogether, you are the most important person in their lives; what you did and you didn’t do, what you said or didn’t say and whether you monitored them. It’s never too early to talk to them and tell them that you don’t want them to use or drink and that you want them to be safe….We went in and did surveys in the Aspen High School and asked kids how many of their parents had had that conversation with them and it wasn’t many. It’s all about you. Take your power back!”
Soooo….how to take your power back? Visit the websites shown in this post and sign up with our Parent to Parent Alliance by emailing me at [email protected] As soon as I have back-up support I will re-gather the troops and continue on with our mission to empower parents to unify and together and be mindful, present and aware AND work with the schools on engaging the students to begin their own campaigns to stand up and be proud that they are part of the percentage who chooses not to abuse drugs and alcohol.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS ON MARIJUANA AND SUBSTANCE USE:
- IDENTIFY HIGH RISK BEHAVIORS
- AMIR LEVINE’S MARIJUANA BOOKLET
- PARENTING TIPS
- MIP OFFENSE INFORMATION
- HEALTH EFFECTS OF UNDERAGE RETAIL MARIJUANA USE
- KNOW THE LAW
- IDENTIFY HIGH RISK YOUTH/ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS
- LOCAL PARENT RESOURCES
- MONITORING HEALTH CONCERNS RELATED TO MARIJUANA
- METHODS OF USE/SLANG TERMS
- COLORADOGOV.ORG/MARIJUANA: State Information/Resources
- GOODTOKNOWCOLORADO: Marijuana 101: Learn the language and help your kids to make good decisions through open conversation about underage retail marijuana use and its effects.
**Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention has merged with CHI to combine forces with their mission to reduce substance abuse from Aspen to Parachute and stop duplicating services in the area, Shelley was the Executive Director of VPDP from 1997-2006.