Alcohol Isn't Heroin, But Neither Is It Safe For Our Young

3 CENTS WORTH

December 11, 1991|By Russ Mullaly

A recent statewide survey of substance abuse among Howard County middle and high school students showed some disturbing facts.

It was amazing to see that a number of students admitted to using such drugsas heroin, crack, LSD, speed and inhalants during the 30 days prior to the survey. It seems strange to think of heroin or crack in HowardCounty, but the experts say drug use is pervasive at all levels of society.

The survey showed that a significant number of Howard County middle and high school students use alcohol and tobacco products regularly. The statistics are disturbing enough, but more disturbing is the opinion, as stated by nearly 20 percent of the students surveyed, thatthey didn't think they would get in trouble if their parents knew about their tobacco or alcohol use.

What this appears to say is thatattitudes haven't changed much in 20 years for some people concerning alcohol abuse. It's the old "Thank God he's not on drugs" attitude expressed by some parents. They seem relieved to find their child "only" has an alcohol problem.

In the survey, the students recognizedsome drugs as very dangerous, while fewer than 30 percent said the same for cigarettes, beer or wine. Forty percent said that hard liquoris dangerous.

They don't seem to realize that alcohol abuse is probably the largest substance abuse problem there is. It may be a harder problem to treat than those of many other abused substances.

What seems to make alcohol and tobacco more "respectable" is that they are legally sold substances. Legal or not, alcohol can lead to serious problems just as severe as illegal-substance problems.

Alcohol and tobacco are legal vices for adults, and some of them feel that as soon as a child gets a little older, the use of these substances won't be a problem because it will be legal.

Alcohol and tobacco are substances that Mom and Dad can identify with, so it's not so scary tothem that their child was caught with a cigarette or a beer. Also, something else to consider: If Mom or Dad has a problem with alcohol, then by admitting the child has a problem, wouldn't they also have torecognize their own problem, too? Under these circumstances, it's a lot easier for them just to look the other way.

Teen-agers reportedly are binge-drinking at parties, often in someone's home while the parents are away. Sometimes the parentsare home, in another part of the house, not paying attention. To them, it's only a little beer, so what: "They can have beer, but no hard stuff!"

Think of it, a house full of drunken teen-agers, and along with it the possibility of fights, property damage, you name it. Then they get into cars and drive. And some of these teens say their parents wouldn't mind if they knew about it. Ever wonder why children have no respect for adults?

Alcohol and tobacco cause health problems. Both are addic

tive. If children get used to abusing alcohol at a tender age, will they just be able to flick a switch and moderate their use when they become "responsible adults"?

What about the irresponsible and anti-social behavior that often accompanies over-indulgence in alcohol? Not to mention alcohol-related auto accidents. Do the parents not mind this, either?

Maybe not, as long as it's not their living room that's trashed, or their car and child reduced to a twisted pile of wreckage. After all, kids will be kids. What's a parent to do?

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