The Coalition of Colorado Campus Alcohol and Drug Educators (CADE) is in the middle of a four-year study on pot use among students since recreational marijuana was legalized. A preliminary reportfor 2018 found that frequent cannabis use is more prevalent among college students in Colorado than their peers in other states.
"We do see folks in that college-age range who prioritize the use of substances and development of social relationships over academic or vocational pursuits," said David Arnold with CADE.
The survey found 13.9 percent of college students reported daily and near daily use (15 or more days per month) of marijuana. Arnold said they are also seeing more students reporting using pot two to five times per day.
A higher frequency of use is concerning to college counselors like Laura Thompson, she said.
"I’m not so concerned about somebody experimenting," Thompson said. "I am interested in the relationship, and is it something that’s starting to impede you in other ways."
Erin Tubbs, a freshman at Regis University, said she smoked pot in high school but started to notice negative effects.
"I felt like I wasn’t on top of things," she said. "I was like, 'OK I didn’t do it tonight, it’s cool I’ll do it later.'"
Thompson said she has seen students' educational goals derailed by frequent cannabis use. She said she also worries students may use marijuana as a way to manage a mental health issue.
"The No. 1 reason students come to college counseling centers nationally is because of anxiety," she said. "So, we've got people who are really anxious who are trying to anesthetize the anxiety, but some of the ways they’re doing that is actually making it worse."
Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, numerous studies have focused on the potential health and safety impact for both teenagers and adults. Both Thompson and Arnold said they are hoping parents and students will engage in a more practical discussion.
"That conversation can be ongoing throughout the year," Thompson said. "When students come home for holidays — these are great times to have conversations about how things are going and whether or not alcohol, cannabis, and stimulants are part of the experience so far at college and how that relates to their academic and vocational goals."
More resources for parents can be found on the Speak Now Colorado website.