President Obama recently spoke to the heart of what those of us in prevention hold dear when he said, “We want to make sure a third grader has support so he doesn’t engage in destructive behavior.”
His comment came during a panel/conversation at the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta attended by 1,900 of the nation's top researchers, law enforcement officials, advocates and policy-makers.
I had the pleasure of attending the conference and watching the President speak directly to Justin Luke Riley whose recovery story included beginning to use substances when he was in the third grade. Justin is the president and CEO of Young People in Recovery (YPR).
“Prevention is the only way to reduce demand for alcohol and drugs among young people and we need more of it.”
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While at the conference, I learned about the absolute importance of not allowing the legalization of marijuana, not even for medical purposes.
Thomas Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) spoke about the impact on Colorado youth after marijuana became legal in that state. Colorado is now ranked first in the nation for current marijuana use among youth (national average is 7 percent and Colorado youth average almost 13 percent). That is 74 percent higher than the national average!
Additionally, Colorado youth use increased 20 percent compared to pre-legalization years 2011/2012 but there was a 5 percent decline at the national level. You can find more information about this subject here www.rmhidta.org (click on "Reports").
Our IMPACT Coalitions know that as social norms around the acceptability of marijuana use change, use and abuse increase. The National Institutes of Health issued a report last year that showed from 2002-2013 past year marijuana use among adults increased from 4.1% to 9.5% nationally.
Research shows that 90 percent of addiction begins in the teen years. With prescription drug and heroin overdoses surging in virtually every state in the nation—including Texas—and with pro-marijuana advocates working hard in every state, we must get ahead of the curve.
During the conference in Atlanta, President Obama also said, “The most important thing we can do is reduce the demand for drugs.”
The Drug Prevention Resources Board, staff and I could not agree more