New Alcohol, Drug Awareness App Lets Users Practice Talking to an At-Risk Friend or Loved One

By Earls, Stephanie | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), December 27, 2017 | Go to article overview

New Alcohol, Drug Awareness App Lets Users Practice Talking to an At-Risk Friend or Loved One


Earls, Stephanie, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)


A new awareness campaign led by a Denver nonprofit and paid for by Colorado's marijuana tax cash fund aims to encourage adults in the land of microbrews and legal marijuana to take a hard look at their habits. For those concerned about a friend or loved one, the "One Degree, Shift the Influence" campaign also has advice - in the form of an interactive, app-based simulation - on how to broach a topic that can be especially daunting when legal and social taboos don't necessarily have one's back.

The conversation is a complex and nuanced one at every level.

"We're not trying to paint alcohol as a terrible thing," said Carolyn Swenson, manager of training and consultation for Peer Assistance Services Inc., the campaign's sponsor. "We recognize it's here; it's a part of our economy, our tourism and lifestyle. We just want people to recognize that there are significant negatives and they are not just significant for individuals, but for the whole society."

Four years after legalization, Denver officials say more data needed to assess marijuana's impact

As recently as 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that excessive alcohol use had an annual economic impact of $250 billion, or about $2.05 per drink consumed in the U.S. Though recent federal data notes a slight decline in alcohol use among all age groups, studies also have shown that 1 in 4 Americans drinks at a level that can impact personal and family health, workplace productivity and social stability.

"Despite all the attention to opioids - which is a huge problem in our country - alcohol is still absolutely our number one substance abuse problem," said Swenson, who trains nursing students around the state, including those at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Beth El College of Nursing, on how to talk about patients about alcohol and drugs.

"We've been working for over 10 years to try to promote earlier intervention for alcohol and drug problems, but this is the first time we've had the chance to do this widespread companion campaign," Swenson said. "To the best of my knowledge, this campaign is definitely a new take on reaching out to the public and getting people to consider, how much are they really drinking? …

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