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Updated May 17, 2017 - 9:54 am

Opioid use among ​Arizona high school seniors declining

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Consistent with the national trend, opioid use among high school seniors in Arizona is decreasing. Yet, the abuse of such drugs remains higher than the national average.

The Arizona Youth Survey finds nearly 14 percent of Arizona high school seniors said last year they have used opioids in their lifetime, down from about 27 percent in 2010. Nationwide, nearly 8 percent of high school seniors said last year they have used opioids compared to 13 percent in 2010.

“We are seeing a steady decline but, of course, 14 percent is still a very high number for youth to be using opioids,” said Shomari Jackson, prevention specialist with Southwest Behavioral Health Services. “The fight continues to try to get that percentage even lower.”

Jackson said one of the main reasons teens use opioids is to cope with something happening in their lives.

He said one way his group is trying to reduce opioid use among teens is by educating parents about why teens use opioids and the importance of getting rid of prescription drugs they no longer need.

“Prescription drugs tend to sit around the house, and that’s the first place that youth start getting them,” Jackson said.

He also pointed out fire and police departments across the Valley accept leftover prescription drugs. Last month, Arizona participated in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which resulted in more than 9,500 pounds of prescription drugs being dropped off at various locations.

Jackson said his group also goes into classrooms and educates teens about the risks and consequences of using opioids. They also teach teens how to say “no” when being peer pressured into using opioids.

In addition, the group works with Gov. Doug Ducey’s office on efforts to address opioid use among high school students.

In January, the governor’s office announced it would invest about $3.5 million in substance abuse programs at Arizona high schools, which the governor’s office says is a key demographic to target when tackling the state’s opioid epidemic.

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