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Cary Quashen: Help for today, hope for tomorrow

Posted: April 11, 2013 8:14 a.m.
Updated: April 11, 2013 8:14 a.m.
 

April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is “Help For Today, Hope For Tomorrow.”

Alcohol Awareness Month was established in 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to help reduce the stigma often associated with alcoholism.

“Help For Today, Hope For Tomorrow” is a call to action focusing attention on underage drinking and the devastating effects it can have on our nation’s youth.

No substance of abuse is more widely used and abused by America’s youth than alcohol, making alcoholism and alcohol-related problems the No. 1 public health problem in the United States.

Despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, there are headlines across the nation (and in Santa Clarita) about teen car crashes after an exciting evening at the prom or graduation. Many teens who attend such events attend after parties and imbibe.

Allen, age 15, was found close to death on the sidewalk near a Canyon Country park after drinking a quart of vodka in 15 minutes. Lucky for him, his friend called an ambulance and that saved his life.

A recent attempt of teen partiers to sober up a friend who was severely drunk almost killed her for lack of knowledge about alcohol poisoning. And while she made it to the hospital, her parents held vigil through the night hoping she would live.  

One teenager recently told me about drinking 10 shot glasses worth of alcohol at a teen party in a two-hour time period.

Another who loves to party cried as she shared how she drinks, blacks out from her drinking and has been sexually assaulted while drunk.

Sadly, many teens are first presented with alcohol in their own living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens. The wink and the nod when acknowledging fake identifications and selling alcohol to teens is just as prevalent.

How many of you have ever been “shoulder tapped” at a local liquor store and been asked by a teen to buy alcohol? And how many of you did, thinking it is harmless and teens have the right to party?

I know, you told yourself you did it as a kid and you turned out fine.  

But it only takes a visit to Santa Clarita’s Central Park Youth Grove Memorial to see the devastating effects alcohol has had on Santa Clarita youth.

Alcohol is a drug, as surely as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana are. For many of our country’s young people, alcohol is the No. 1 drug of choice.  In fact, teens use alcohol more frequently and heavily than all other illicit drugs combined. While some parents may feel relieved that their teen is “only” drinking, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug.

The media is saturated with messages that equate alcohol with having a good time. Teens are bombarded with the “It’s OK to drink” message.

Unfortunately, no matter what the advertising vehicle is, these ads never show or tell the deadly consequences of teenage alcohol use.

Alcohol is a drug that can affect judgment, coordination and long-term health, and research suggests that early use of alcohol by teenagers may contribute significantly to dependence on alcohol and other drugs later in life,with 40 percent of children who begin using alcohol before the age of 13 becoming me alcoholics at some point in their lives.

Alcohol is the No. 1 drug of choice among America’s youth and is a factor in the four leading causes of death among persons ages 10–24.

Not only does alcohol affect the mind and body in unpredictable ways, but teens lack the judgment and coping skills to handle alcohol wisely.

We know that significant brain development continues through adolescence. A recent study by the National Institute of Health presents the first concrete evidence that heavy alcohol use can impair brain function in adolescents, causing, in many cases, irreversible damage.

Alcohol-related traffic accidents are a major cause of death and disability among teens. Alcohol use is also linked with the deaths of young people by drowning, fire, suicide and homicide.

Teens who use alcohol are more likely to become sexually active at earlier ages, to have sexual intercourse more often, and to have unprotected sex more than teens who do not drink.  

Young people who drink are more likely than others to be victims of violent crime, including rape, aggravated assault and robbery.

The message is clear — alcohol use is risky business for young people. And the longer children delay alcohol use, the less likely they are to develop the problems associated with it.

Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist, the president and founder of Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs, The Zone, and Action Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs. He may be reached by calling (661) 297-8691.

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