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Jul 25, 2011 12:18 AM by Matt Stafford

Drug use in Colorado higher than most of the country

A new study from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration shows Colorado higher than the national average for illegal drug use. According to the study 11.3% of Coloradans used illicit drugs in the last month compared to 8.4% for the national average.

As for alcohol; more than half the nation drank in the last month, 51.8%, but Colorado still had more than 10 percent more drinkers coming in at 62.2%

"We're undergoing significant economic problems and the use of substances is often used to in some way reduce the stress, reduce the tension, reduce the depression that many people are feeling," says Paul Isenstadt, a licensed clinical social worker. Isenstadt is nervous about the numbers.

The study shows 38.5% of Coloradans used marijuana in the last year; that's almost ten percent above the national average of 29.1 percent. Numbers like that only increase the local medical marijuana debate.

"Is there a correlation between the fact that there's a lot of latitude with medical marijuana and we're seeing increased use?" asks Isenstadt.

"I'm not worried about the numbers, I'm actually encouraged by the numbers," responds KC Stark, with Go Green Cross dispensary.

Stark says they just show him that more people are finding helpful, medicinal properties to the drug.

"They didn't abuse it; they didn't go out and 38.5 percent are not committing crimes, they're using it," says Stark.

Still, Isenstadt would like to see the numbers looked at, as well as more government funding provided for addiction treatment, for all drugs.

"We can no longer let this go; just sort of avoid dealing with it. We need to deal with it," says Isenstadt.

Also in the study, Colorado ranks higher than the national average for people having major depressive episodes or serious thoughts of suicide. Those numbers mixed with the drug numbers are a scary thought for social workers like Isenstadt.

For more information on the study, click here.

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