What is the #1 Cause of Death for Youths Aged 10-18 in Colorado?

My forever-19-year-old son, Johnny, would have been 23 years old tomorrow, February 7. I was emailing with a friend about it, who also lost her son to suicide and is in the suicide prevention field now. She was recently attending a conference, where someone told her suicide was no longer the #1 cause of death for teens in Colorado as of 2021 — that it was overdose. “Really!” I said, surprised, “Could that be true?”

So, I emailed my contact, the Lead Analyst/Epidemiologist of the Mortality Surveillance Unit for the Center for Health and Environmental Data at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to ask her.

She wrote me back, “Yes, suicide was the leading cause of death among 10-14 year olds and 15-18 year olds for the year 2021 in Colorado.” It appears the other person was confused, because the new dashboard now “lumps” 15-24 year olds together, instead of separating them by age ranges of 15-18 and 19-24, as was in 2020. Is this to cause confusion? I’m not sure. But once the 19–24-year-old adults were removed, suicide was still by far the #1 cause of death. And the #1 substance found in their toxicology reports? THC. Not alcohol.

Before legalization in Colorado, suicide was not the #1 cause of death in youth. Direct association? You bet. While advocates might label this a spurious correlation, we know for a fact that marijuana use has adverse mental effects, including psychosis, depression, anxiety, violence, and suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completions.

A June 2021 analysis of 280,000 young adults published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) revealed that marijuana use is associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide plans, and suicide attempts among those aged 18-35, regardless of whether someone was also experiencing depression. They linked suicide and cannabis use in adolescence, proving the problem persists well into adulthood. This followed another large survey in 2020, as well as numerous other studies, suggesting the same link between marijuana and suicidality. See our website for many more peer-reviewed studies on the scientific link between suicide and THC.

The more marijuana kids use, the more we’ll lose. See our memorial wall to honor the many kids who have died from suicide related to THC use or overdose after progressing from marijuana use. Also read the stories of the hundreds and hundreds of families who have been impacted, not just mine. It’s time the whole world sat up and took notice, so more teens don’t follow Johnny’s path to destruction.

Read the February 6, 2023 Johnny’s Ambassadors Newsletter

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