The pervasive drug

August 14, 1991

In all the talk about keeping teen-agers off illegal drugs, it's sometimes easy to forget that one of the most deadly drugs is legal, pervasive and easy even for minors to obtain. But the death this past weekend of 15-year-old Brian Ball at an teen-aged all-you-can-drink party outside Salisbury was a stark reminder that alcohol can be every bit as deadly as cocaine or heroin.

Deaths from one-time drinking binges are rare, but alcohol has other ways to kill. It can impair drivers -- young or old -- and contribute to fatal accidents. It can also impair emotions and judgments, and thus contribute to suicidal behavior. It can impair social judgments, leading to dangerous aggression.

It is easy to point fingers after a tragedy like Brian Ball's death -- at the adult who reportedly purchased the liquor for this party, at the absent parents of the young host, at the fellow revelers who failed to notice Brian's condition and perhaps even encouraged him to keep drinking. What's more difficult, however -- but so much more important -- is to maintain consistent efforts to educate young people about the dangers of all drugs. That includes especially alcohol, the drug that pervades this society, the drug teen-agers see advertised and used every day.

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