Teen drinking is focus of public meeting

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Around 40 percent of teens have reported that it is easy to get alcohol from their parents or a friend's parents. Nearly one in five teens have abused prescription drugs to get high.

More than 67 percent of teens who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 will try an illegal drug. Prescription medicines are currently the second most common illegal drugs teens are abusing.

Parents, teens and other community members interested in learning more about the dangers of alcohol and prescription drug abuse are encouraged to attend the Cassville Community 2000 Coalition's second Town Hall Meeting, which will be held in the Crowder College Cassville Center auditorium at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14.

"The community can help combat underage drinking and drug abuse by reducing the factors in the community that increase the risk of substance abuse, such as reducing the availability of alcohol and drugs and changing parents' attitudes that are favorable toward underage drinking and drug use," said Kati Rose, Community 2000 Coalition SPF SIG grant project director. "Just because they drank when they were a teenager doesn't mean that it should be okay for their child to drink.

"Technology has come a long way since the parents were teenagers, and it has now been proven that a youth's brain isn't fully developed until they are 21 to 25 years of age," said Rose. "Alcohol damages the underdeveloped brain."

According to information gathered by Rose, youth are drinking five times more alcohol in one sitting. Youth are also experimenting with alcohol at a much younger age. In Missouri, the age of first use is 12.

This year's Town Hall Meeting will feature two keynote speakers. Barry County Prosecuting Attorney Johnnie Cox will talk about state alcohol laws.

"I will be talking about the minor in possession statute and the laws that relates to providing a house where teenagers are consuming alcohol," said Cox. "I will also talk about laws that relate to supplying or intoxicating minors.

"I believe it will help our community to be informed about what the laws are and understand that there can be consequences to violating those laws," said Cox.

Sgt. Jason Henke, of the Missouri National Guard counterdrug task force, will also participate in the Town Hall Meeting. Henke provides students throughout the state with information on the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.

"The hot topic right now is prescription drug abuse," said Henke. "I will share information on the most common prescription drugs that are abused, why those drugs are dangerous and what teens do to abuse those drugs.

"Abusing prescription medications is the fastest growing drug trend among teens," said Henke. "The availability of prescription drugs is much higher than alcohol or marijuana."

Henke will help parents combat prescription drug abuse by sharing tips to help them eliminate this type of temptation from their homes.

"It could be as simple as checking the medicine cabinet and disposing of old prescription medications," said Henke. "Teens can go to those medicine cabinets and grab something that will achieve a substantial high, and they don't even realize the danger they are putting themselves in."

Cassville High School Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) will perform a skit during the meeting. Individuals who attend the event will also have the opportunity to receive a variety of educational materials on drug and alcohol abuse.

"We will have tons of educational materials available," said Rose. "We will have a whole rack of informational brochures, and we will be distributing bags that include information on prescription drug and alcohol abuse."

A free meal will be provided during the town hall meeting, which is being funded through an ACT Missouri grant. The grant funds will also pay for prescription drug and alcohol abuse postcard mailings to each Cassville parent.

The Crowder College Cassville Center is located on Business 37 across from Barry Electric.

For more information, call Rose at 826-4008.

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