Report: 1 in 10 Colorado teens abused drugs

Ten percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in Colorado reported abusing alcohol or drugs in 2009, according to data released Wednesday in the 2012 Kids Count data book.

That percentage ranks Colorado and New Mexico as the second-highest for middle school and high school substance abuse behind Montana, which reported 11 percent drug or alcohol abuse among 12- to 17-year-olds in 2009.

Colorado has reported drug or alcohol abuse in one out of 10 kids age 12 to 17 since 2005, according to the Kids Count data book produced annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report compares various data related to child well-being in states across the country. Statistics in the book are typically one to three years behind the release date of each Kids Count report.

Although some Kids Count data is broken down at the local level, Tara Manthey, communication director for the local branch of Kids Count, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, said the national data used to tabulate Colorado’s youth drug and alcohol usage rate did not involve a large enough sample size to break the information down by county. She said researchers found drug use more prevalent in western states.

“It’s something that has been a cultural issue,” Manthey said. “So many factors go into drug use it’s hard to pinpoint a single reason.”

Colorado’s teen drug-use rate contributed to the state placing 45th among 50 states and Washington D.C. in health in the 2012 Kids Count report. Other factors used to rank states in health quality for children included percentages of children without insurance, children born at low weights and child and teen death rates. Although Colorado’s rate of low birth weight babies and children without insurance improved in 2009 compared to 2005 data, those percentages remained higher in 2009 in Colorado than the national average.

Colorado ranked 16th in economic well-being, a category Kids Count measures using child poverty, household expenses and employment data, and ninth in education because of student performance on Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.

The state came in 25th in the family and community category, which involves data such as births to teen moms and children living in high-poverty areas. Manthey said the disparity in where Colorado ranks in various categories and disparity between counties in the state led to Colorado placing 22nd overall in the state Kids Count rankings.

“When you look closely at the numbers, a lot of students are performing very well and are in good health but a lot are under-performing and are not as healthy as they need to be. It’s a story of disparity,” Manthey said.


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