Abuse of legal drugs in spotlight

Rise Above campaign warns of dangers prescription drugs can pose

Fruita Monument High School senior Hudson Robison, right, stencils in the “Rise Above Colorado” logo as Jonathan Judge of Denver holds the stencil during the drug prevention organization’s launch Thursday at the school. The campaign is focusing the group’s efforts on the prevention of prescription drug abuse by teens. Judge is the program director for Rise Above Colorado, and Robison is the Mesa County representative on the group’s teen advisory council.



A recent survey of 614 Colorado teens found more than 70 percent of them have talked with their parents about the dangers of alcohol and marijuana. Just 32 percent, though, have had “the talk” about prescription drug abuse.

That could be a dangerous mistake, according to representatives from a new statewide drug prevention organization called Rise Above Colorado, considering Colorado ranks second in the U.S. for prescription drug abuse among people 12 and older. Oregon is number one.

Rise Above visited Fruita Monument High School Thursday to hand out wristbands as part of a statewide launch announcing the group’s formation. Representatives from the group and its partners also hosted focus groups Wednesday in Denver and Thursday at the DoubleTree in Grand Junction to gather opinions from 12- to 17-year-olds about a video and materials Rise Above plans to use in schools to discourage student drug abuse.

Rise Above is an offshoot of The Colorado Meth Project and is working with the national Partnership at Drugfree.org to discourage drug abuse through social media, in-school programming and peer advocacy via a 17-member teen advisory council. Council members are spread around the state, including 18-year-old Fruita Monument senior Hudson Robison. Robison said he joined the group because he agrees with its message. He said he often hears classmates talk about drugs in a positive way and he wants to raise awareness in Fruita of what drugs can do.

“I play sports and I know a couple people who have lost their sports careers over drugs,” Robison said.

Although meth prevention has been a primary focus for anti-drug campaigns in recent years, Courtney Gallo of The Partnership at Drugfree.org said the focus of concern for teens is gradually shifting to prescription drug abuse. While the word has gotten out that meth is dangerous, Gallo said a Rise Above and The Partnership at Drugfree.org-commissioned survey found nearly one in five Colorado teens believe prescription pain relievers are not addictive and about one in four believe prescription pills are safer than illegal drugs. Twenty-nine percent of Colorado high school seniors have tried prescription pills that did not belong to them.

“We’ve seen a dramatic reduction in meth abuse but prescription drugs have come to the forefront and there’s a need for proper preventative education,” Gallo said.

“There’s a perception those drugs come from a doctor so they must be safe,” said Rise Above Executive Director Kent MacLennan. “There’s a huge risk if you use them incorrectly.”

More information is available at riseaboveco.org.


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