Speaking the blunt truth about marijuana

Monday April 23, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Beth Shrader, director of the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition, believes her community reached a tipping point where the "blunt truth" about the high rates of marijuana use among high school students demanded everyone’s full attention.

Brattleboro was one of four federally-funded Vermont communities to prioritize reducing marijuana use by youth and young adults, an approach that appears to be working according to a study by an independent research organization The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

"A community surveys showed us that the high rates of marijuana use by our young people was a major concern for everyone," Shrader said. "Everyone wants young people to develop to their full potential. When we reviewed the data it was a concern."

The Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition launched a media campaign "The blunt truth about marijuana," and a new website, www.theblunttruth.org, to build awareness and educate the community about marijuana’s harmful effects, including effects to brain development before age 25 and greater risk for dependency.

Binge drinking and marijuana use by Vermont high school students has declined in the past eight years (2003-2011) in communities that received federally funded grants to build substance abuse prevention capacity. Communities that are well organized and implement evidence-based prevention strategies according to a plan are the most successful, according to the PIRE research.

While binge drinking by Vermont high school students has declined over the past five years, marijuana use on a statewide level, including those communities that do not receive federal grant funding, has remained unchanged, at rates well above the national average.

Twenty-four percent of Vermont students report using marijuana in the past 30 days, and 39 percent report ever having used marijuana. Only 34 percent of students think kids their age risk great harm from smoking marijuana regularly, and 62 percent think that marijuana is easy to get, according to the statewide 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

"However, 47 percent of Windham County Southeast Supervisory Union high school students reported ever using marijuana according to the YRBS," Shrader said.

"We saw an opportunity to create change," Shrader said. "And we like a challenge."

More parents of high school students are also becoming aware of the resources available to help prevent marijuana use, Schrader said, because of campaigns such as "the blunt truth."

"Students are a very difficult group of people to reach, and Brattleboro knew that to address marijuana use would require the support of the entire community," Cimaglio said. "The strategies underway in Vermont are accomplishing what they set out to do. We are trending in the right direction."

For more information visit healthvermont.gov. Follow BAPC on Twitter or on Facebook.


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