Youth Focus Groups

In August and September of 2016, OMNI conducted four focus groups with high school-aged youth to learn more about youth thoughts and attitudes regarding alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug use.

Alcohol and marijuana are the substances that youth most commonly reported using. Participants felt alcohol use was an issue because it is easily accessible and commonly used, specifically consumed in large quantities at parties. Due to marijuana’s legalization in the state of Colorado, youth stated that it was more socially acceptable for them to use the substance.

Prescription medication abuse was least reported because its use is not as social, and is commonly associated with someone who has an addiction.

Most reported using alcohol to fit into social situations, while many reported using marijuana as a way to escape from feelings of depression or anxiety. Prescription medications were reportedly used to aid in studying or staying awake.

The top reported reason to not use substances? Fear about the impact on college, career, or sports prospects. Second was the fear of being caught, either by parents or other trusted adults.

Most participants reported having had a conversation about substance abuse with an adult at some point; most frequently, these conversations centered around alcohol abuse. Prescription medication abuse was the least-discussed of the three.

The biggest concern for youth in initiating conversations with adults about substance abuse is that their friends will get in trouble, or that their parents will no longer allow them to spend time with specific friends. The fear of a relationship with an adult changing due to such conversations also deterred youth from speaking openly about substance abuse.

In response to these findings, some of the tactics considered may include providing resources to youth that are educational, relevant to the developmental stage of the youth, and that go beyond negative effects and “scare tactics”; partnering with schools to create safe spaces for these discussions; and encouraging discussion of all substance abuse, not just alcohol or marijuana.

To read the full report, click here.