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—Photo courtesy of Rise Above Colorado

Local Org Releases New Data On Teen Drug Use

Rise Above Colorado's recent survey reveals the youth at greatest risk for addiction.


A few weeks ago, my story on the local impacts of the opioid epidemic, including both heroin and prescription drug addiction, was published in this year’s issue of 5280 Health. I focused mostly on stories of and solutions to adult addiction, but many of the addicts mentioned started using as teenagers.

That demographic is the focus of Rise Above Colorado, a Broomfield-based organization that works to prevent youth drug abuse. Started in 2008 as the Colorado Meth Project, the group has since expanded to address drug use more broadly, while also concentrating on reducing prescription drug misuse. Last week released its first statewide survey in three years, and the data are eye-opening.


First, the good news: The percentage of Colorado teens ages 12 to 17 who are using marijuana, meth, prescription painkillers like OxyContin, and prescription stimulants such as Ritalin has stayed relatively constant since the last time Rise Above conducted its survey in 2013. (Alcohol use, in contrast, has noticeably increased from 33 percent to 46 percent.) And less than 5 percent of teens are using prescription drugs or meth (the Colorado Meth Project helped reduce the latter through its terrifying ad campaign, Not Even Once).


A member of the wide-ranging Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, Rise Above has started the Colorado Constellation Project to try to help communities around the state reach their at-risk teens. For instance, the #IRiseAbove campaign encourages youth to post pictures of their favorite activities—how they “rise above”—on social media. Statewide, teens have said that friends and family, outdoor activities, team sports, and adrenaline activities such as skiing and snowboarding have helped them rise above drug use. Hopefully with more engagement through these programs, the next time the organization does this survey, they’ll find a decrease in use across the board.

Are you working to combat addiction? Tell me how at

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