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New Youth Marijuana Prevention Program Developed by CAFP Prepares to Launch

Colorado voters legalized the use of recreational marijuana on November 6, 2012. In the almost six years since, policy makers and citizens alike have been carefully watching to see what consequences might arise. Most seem to agree the “great experiment” has been a mix of successes and failures.

One issue of high priority to family physicians and many others is the effect on young people. Unfortunately, that news hasn’t all been good. Reporting and research by The Denver Post and other sources have found that marijuana use in Colorado kids is above the national average and rising. And marijuana use is tied to many negative factors in young people’s lives, from suicide to parole violations. All of this is exacerbated for young people of color and from low income communities.

What can be done? Of course, a broad effort must be undertaken to address the multifactorial elements driving these statistics. But the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP) felt that there must be a place for family physicians to engage and help communities.

The solutions came as an evolution of the Tar Wars program. For many years Tar Wars has encouraged young people to say no to smoking, and to be aware of the effects of tobacco industry ads. Now, those same ideas are being applied to the growing issue of marijuana use in CAFP’s new program “Stop and Think: Preventing Marijuana Use in Colorado Youth.”

The program includes a curriculum for fourth and fifth grade students. Funding for curriculum development was provided by a grant from the Family Medicine Philanthropic Consortium, part of the AAFP and AAFP Foundation. Curriculum development was completed by CAFP staff, under the advisement of a team of family medicine residents from the University of Colorado: Stephanie Eldred, MD, Logan Mims, MD, John Weeks, MD, and Allyson Westling, MD.

The CAFP is now pursuing a second round of funding that will support a pilot program of the curriculum to be delivered in key schools identified in Denver neighborhoods that have the highest concentration of retail marijuana shops. This pilot program will gather feedback from parents and educators, and allows for refinement of the curriculum before it is expanded statewide.

In addition to this school-based work, the CAFP will be developing accompanying resources that can be utilized by family physicians. In a recent survey of the CAFP membership, 50% of members felt well-versed in educating children and parents about marijuana use, while 42% did not feel well-versed, with many members indicating they felt they could be doing more. The majority of respondents (62%) did not have substance abuse counselors directly in practice and 91% did not have standard discussion or educational materials to use in practice. Because so much work is being done in the space, the CAFP’s role will be to streamline and make easily available existing physician resources, and to supplement anything that is missing.

For more information about the Stop and Think program, please contact Lynlee Espeseth at lynlee@coloradoafp.org or 303-696-6655 x 116.