Marijuana, vape and alcohol — the three most-used substances by Maricopa teens — can be particularly detrimental to brain development when consumed before age 25, medical experts say.

They take a toll on motivation and mental health.

Accordingly, Be Awesome Youth Coalition, which is dedicated to raising awareness and educating young people about risks associated with drug and alcohol consumption, will address the topic every Tuesday in April during its Talk-O Tuesday series.

The talks are 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Copper Sky Recreational Center. 

Each session will have a specific focus: alcohol on April 4, fentanyl on April 11, vaping on April 18 and marijuana on April 25. 

Parents and children of any age are encouraged to attend. A complimentary taco dinner and lock boxes will be provided.  

Priscilla Behnke, founder and executive director of Be Awesome, said many Maricopa children are exposed to alcohol and drugs before age 15. 

“We want to reach kids while they’re young,” Behnke said. “And guide parents through the awkward conversations with their children.”  

Be Awesome program director Priscilla Behnke. [file photo]
The normalization of substance abuse online, in Hollywood and in younger generations is putting teens at a higher risk for substance abuse, she said. 

“It’s not just culturally accepted, it’s culturally pushed,” Behnke said. 

Although there isn’t much research to support the use of fentanyl in Maricopa, Behnke said parents are still concerned with its health toll.  

“I don’t think teens are always seeking it out,” Behnke said. “But the scary thing is the dealers are using it to make their drugs more addictive.” 

Moving forward, Be Awesome wants to incorporate more activities and events into its schedule for children to have fun and stay safe, saving one life at a time.  

For more information, call or text 520-428-7750 or email