Pubdate: Sat, 19 Jan 2008
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2008 The Patriot Ledger


On the one hand, Pembroke students should be hailed for  their
openness and honesty in talking about their  alcohol and drug use.

On the other hand, a study by the Southeast Center for  Healthy
Communities should raise an alarm for parents  and educators that they
need to drive home the message  that does not appear to be taking hold
that substance  abuse is a dangerous path to take at such a young age.

A study by the health consortium found that nearly half  of Pembroke
High School students - 48.7 percent - said  they had drunk alcohol at
some point in their lives.  About one-quarter of students said they
had smoked  marijuana.

Pembroke's figures are slightly above the national  average for both
alcohol and marijuana use and above  the state's average for drinking
but slightly below for  smoking marijuana.

But far more troubling was the admission by 30 percent  of high school
students who said they drove a car while  under the influence in the
30 days prior to the survey.

"I've worked in other high schools, and the most  painful experience
a principal can go through is the  death of a student, and when it is
related to drugs or  alcohol, it's just tragic," Pembroke High
principal  Ruth Lynch said following the presentation to the  school
committee Thursday night.

Tragic indeed. Each year more that 10,000 young people  in the United
States are killed and 40,000 injured in  alcohol-related automobile

The rate of fatal crashes among alcohol-involved  drivers between 16
and 20 years old is more than twice  that for alcohol-involved drivers
21 and older,  according to a federal study.

Pembroke is clearly not an island but more of a  microcosm of today's
youth in society. But anyone  concerned about the future of today's
teens needs to  take a hard look at the figures.

According to the American Association of Child and  Adolescent
Psychology, people who begin drinking before  age 15 are four times
more likely to develop alcohol  dependence at some time in their lives
compared with  those who have their first drink at age 20 or older.

Alcohol use interacts with conditions such as  depression and stress
to contribute to suicide, the  third leading cause of death among
people between the  ages of 14 and 25.

Adolescence is a time to allow your body to grow and  develop, not a
time to experiment with harmful  substances. Pembroke students showed
they are willing  to talk honestly about their use of drugs and alcohol.

Perhaps that is an indication they are also willing to  listen.
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