Pubdate: Thu, 27 Nov 2008
Source: Advertiser (CN NF)
Copyright: 2008 Advertiser
Author: J. P. Antonacci
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Marijuana and Driving)


Sobering Facts About Alcohol, Drugs

Turning up the radio, opening the window, nibbling on some bread - all
these things won't help increase your awareness if you're driving
while tired, drunk or high.

These would-be quick fixes - splashing water on your face and taking a
quick nap are others - are mistakenly believed to help counter the
effects of drugs or alcohol. It's another myth the students in the
leadership class at Exploits Valley High are trying to dispel during
Impairment Week.

Sonia Omar, Vanessa Carroll, and Millicent Mercer are in Grade 12 at
EVH. They and the other students in Deborah Ball's leadership class -
with support from the community group Safe and Caring Schools -
organized the week, which features guest speakers, a school-wide
assembly, and a very prominent postering campaign, all of which
strives to help students avoid falling into the trap of addiction.

These three student leaders often see their peers turn to alcohol or
drugs as an outlet for stress or other social problems. Ms. Omar
worries that the use of intoxicants has grown so widespread that young
people and society at large have come to passively accept the situation.

"In the past couple years, all these things have become acceptable -
if you do coke, if you smoke marijuana, it's okay to do it because -
not even 'everyone else is doing it,' it's just...okay. Nobody points
you out for it anymore," she said.

Ms. Omar explained that the class decided to promote safe driving
during addiction week since many students who are new to driving have
been getting into trouble on the road.

"Especially these last couple of months - it's just been accidents
galore," she said. "What we're trying to do is get people thinking
about safe driving, not just impairment."

But impairment is very much on the agenda, as the students have found
that drug and alcohol abuse don't receive the amount of attention that
other, more noticeable problems do.

"I think (addiction) is more of an underlying concern. Everybody
always talks about bullying and teen pregnancy and stuff like that,
and addiction seems like it's less spoken about, but more common," aid
Ms. Omar.

"A lot of people found the facts that we have on the wall beneficial,
things like 50 per cent of all car accidents have something to do with
alcohol," said Ms. Carroll, speaking about the posters that seem to be
taped and hung on every available wall space. Students can't help but
take in some info as they walk between classes.

"There's all these statistics and myths that (students) don't
understand, like 'I always stay away from the hard stuff.' But if you
smoke marijuana, then you have a nine out of 10 chance to try
something hard. And it's like, 'Well, I'll just do it once,' but if
you do it once you have a nine out of 10 chance of becoming addicted,"
said Ms. Carroll, who like her fellow students has spent months
researching the issues and figuring out the best way to reach students
with the life-saving truth about addiction.

Ms. Mercer says that even the organizers are learning new things now
that the campaign has kicked into high gear. She said awareness about
addiction among all students is much higher than before.

"I think it was more this week when we brought it up and had it all
around the school rather than before. I even looked at a couple of the
posters and was like, 'Oh, I didn't know that!'" she said.

But the campaign is not all about shocking and admonishing students.
An innovative event taking place today in the EVH cafeteria will prove
that young people can have fun and enjoy each other's company without
the help of drugs or booze.

Today is Bring Your Own Banana day, where any student who brings in a
banana will be treated to a banana split prepared by the leadership

The zany lunch is just another way to raise awareness, said Ms.

"A lot of it is done to grab the attention of students, because BYOB
is not typically known for 'bring your own banana.' So it would really
catch the attention of a lot of people and lead to more questions
being asked," she said.

"We tried to make sure that it's not all serious," agreed Ms. Omar.
"We tried to bring more fun to it, so that people won't be like 'Oh,
this is such a depressing week!' We hope that people have fun on
Thursday so that come Friday they are more serious."

How many splits do the students think they'll be making

"Too many!" said Ms. Mercer, laughing. The group of would-be dessert
chefs can't wait to test out the assembly line split-making system
they've planned. Ms. Mercer hopes to become a cook in the Canadian
Forces after graduation, so serving sweets to hungry high schoolers
might prove to be good training.

The students said they tried to use "the shock factor" to drive home
the message to their peers, and an example is the wrecked car that
students found in the parking lot when they got to school Monday
morning. The car, which had been in a crash caused by impaired driving
and was donated to the school to show students the tragic consequences
of driving under the influence, evoked an unfortunate response.

"They tipped it over," said Ms. Mercer of some of her more destructive

"It wasn't the best spot to put it," agreed Ms. Carroll.

But, she continued, the point was still made.

"Well, you know, with stuff like this you have to be ready and expect
the worst, and overall I think the week is going really well. But
there are a few minor flaws that are bound to arise," she said,
flashing her friends a smile. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake