Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 26, 1974 · Page 21
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 21

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 26, 1974
Page 21
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Page 21 article text (OCR)

Area Parental Attitude on Alcohol Raked A 13-year-old boy who currently resides at the Kanawha County Juvenile Home has such a severe problem with alcoholism that he drinks two fifths of wine a day when he can get it. The youngster's problem is so great that he's apparently even undergone alcohol addiction withdrawal, said Collett Smith, director of the Kanawha County Alcoholism Information Center. Smith often deals with teenage alcoholics. Sometimes, they're referred to the center by the juvenile court. . ,"I have observed that the use of alcohol by teenagers is increasing, especially since they've stiffened the penalties for | harder drugs," Smith said. . "The main problem is that alcohol is le'; gal. A lot of parents accept the fact that I their children will eventally drink alcohol. And in some cases, the parents actually encourage them to drink to keep them away from other stuff." »· BUT BY NO MEANS does Smith consider alcohol a lesser evil. The National Institute for Mental Health estimates that last year, $15 billion was lost to the national economy because of alcohol, he said. "Alcohol is more damaging, socially and economically, than all other drugs put together," he said. One reason that some parents fail to recognize the danger of the use of alcohol by their children, Smith said, is that in order to recognize that the child has a problem, the parent who drinks must also recognize that he has the very same problem. Most of the teenagers in this area who drink, Smith continued, are "socio-recrea- tional drinkers who drink because of peer pressure, because it's the thing to do. Only a small percentage of them are seeking an escape." Assistant Prosecutor Pat O'Neal, who is assigned to the Kanawha County Juvenile Court, said the court appears to be getting fewer cases of drug violations than in pre- Pills Lose To Booze With Teens Young people are turning from amphetamines and heroin to another kind of drug -- alcohol. Their parents find it more socially acceptable than hard drugs, but teenage alcoholism is increasing. Schools and hospitals are trying to deal with the problem. By Carol Deegan The Associated Press Mia, a pretty, red-haired teenager with enormous emerald-colored eyes, recalls the days when she put liquor in a baby bottle so that she could sip it during school. "I took it to school with me in the morning. And I drank on the way to school and kept it in a baby bottle so I could sip it all day long," Mia recalls. Now a 19-year-old "recovered" alcoholic. Mia started drinking when she was 11 years old. She is involved in the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Her case is not an isolated one. A spokesman for the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol Information, a federal agency, estimates-that 450,000 people under 20 .years of age are alcoholics or problem drinkers. The most recent government statistics on drinking were gathered in 1971, but they did not break down drinking habits by age groups. Another Federal nationwide survey is to be made this summer. The National Clearinghouse, Alcoholics Anonymous and other organizations dealing with alcoholism agree that about 95 million Americans over the age of 15 drink with some regularity. Of these, an estimated nine million are alcoholics or problem drinkers -- compared with five million 10 years ago. USE OF ALCOHOL is apparently surpassing the use of other drugs among the nation's teenagers. The second report of the President's National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse said: "Among junior high, senior high and college students, alcohol is, by far, the drug of choice. Figures extrapolated from student surveys show that by 1972, approximately 56 per cent of the junior high students, almost three-fourths of the senior high students and 83 per cent of the college students have used alcohol at least once." And in a national survey made by the Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, 6'million young people said they drank liquor, compared with 3.5 million teens who said they smoked marijuana. Experts point out that it is difficult to gauge just how extensively the teenage drinking problem has grown over recent years. Attention has been focused on use of other drugs, they said. And there is the problem of the "closet" alcoholic -- the teenager who refuses to admit that he has a drinking problem. - 1 ' *" I WHAT'S IT LIKE for a youngster to t vious years and his conversations with policemen indicate that the reason is that more youngsters are drinking. *· "OF COURSE, PARENTS vary greatly in their opinions," O'Neal said. "But while some parents take a very harsh view of teenage drinking, others are more tolerant. I would guess that on the whole, par- ents are more tolerant of drinking than drug usage." A spokesman for the vice squad of the Charleston Police Department said most drug offenders arrested by members of the department are smoking marijuana alone or smoking and drinking in combination. "There's very little of the hard drugs around. For the most part it's pot or a combination of pot and alcohol." Lt. Gerald Wiseman, director of the Charleston Police Department Juvenile Bureau, said his men have come across isolated cases of alcohol abuse, but no general trend. have a drinking problem? Mia describes her life. "I got in with a crowd that was smoking pot and hash. And taking pills and drinking very heavily. In my 12th grade year I quit school, I couldn't cope any more. I couldn't walk into the classroom any more. "Some days I did manage to get in. Classes were 80 minutes and within 20 minutes I would be passed out on the floor. And no one ever said anything to me The teacher never said anything, you know. They didn't bother me. "As far as blackouts go, they were terrible. I left the house about 10 a.m. with a bottle of vodka in my hand and that's the last thing I remember. I wandered back to the house around 5 or 6 p.m. with scratches and bruises and dirt. And I was all wet, I was a mess. "I had reached a point by this time in my senior year that it was compulsive. I couldn't control it any more. If I saw a bottle in front of me, I drank it purely because it was there. No other reason. "Many mornings I'd wake up and I'd reach into the refrigerator for something to drink, a mixed drink that I had left over the night, and some mornings I'd stand there holding it, saying why do I need it? Why do I want it so badly? "And I couldn't come up with any answers. So I continued to drink. A compulsion. I drank to get drunk." Mia lived with her father and stepmother from the age of 11 to 18, then went to live with her mother and soon after joined Alcoholics Anonymous. She said there was always liquor in her father's house because he was in the Army and there were many parties. She hid her drinking from her father and stepmother as long as possible. She said she drank because her stepmother "put me down and told me I was nothing." ·· TEENAGERS HAVE ALWAYS con sumed alcohol, but their numbers appear to be increasing. A recent survey of 589 high school students in Washtenaw County, Mich., showed that 76 per cent of those polled had consumed alcohol, compared with 66 per cent in 1970. The Michigan survey found that teenagers are not only drinking more, they're drinking harder. In 1972, 20 per cent said they most frequently downed five or more drinks in one sitting. In 1970, only 12 per cent reported drinking heavily. Last November, a University of Arizona survey classified 61,200 state residents under 24 as heavy, problem drinkers. Based on census figures, the study would indicate that among persons 13 to 24 years of age in Arizona, one in five is an alcoholic. The study prompted concern among Arizona officials, including Mrs. Dodie Gust, director of the University of Arizona's Alcohol Studies and Information Services. "We should teach our children responsible drinking attitudes," Mrs. Gust said. "The progression of the disease is faster with young people. It doesn't take as long to be an alcoholic." The"Los Angeles County Alcohol Safety Action Program, a private outfit, contends that three out of four teenagers drink, one in 20 has a serious problem and one in 10 will become an alcoholic. Alan Herzlin is director of educational programs at Freeport Hospital, which op- L.T. ANDERSON Just Once, Have a Poet Talk Before this weekend is over, the people in thousands of American communities will have applauded a military spokesmen for his speech on the necessity of preparedness and a clergyman for his speech to the effect that the men who died in Vietnam didn't die in vain. This is my annual appeal for a Memorial Day,observance that doesn't include parades of military might and jingoistic speeches and prayers. It is possible for the Senior Citizen to remember Memorial days during which the observances were confined to remakrs made on behalf of those who died for their country. Politics, ideology, and national rivalries didn't intrude. Nobody declared that all of America's military adventures were ordained by God. I once heard a Memorial Day speaker declare the Spanish-American War to be one of the most ignoble undertakings of an . American government. That assertion didn't disqualify him from honoring the men who died in Cuba. American servicemen go where their governments send them. It is no disservice to the Vietnam dead to say that they did, too, die in vain. »- EVERY DAY, that fact becomes clearer. Maps showing the disposition of North Vietnam troops and South Vietnam revolutionaries almost precisely duplicate the maps of 1965. In Congress, there is a great reluctance to extend further aid to the Saigon government, which is visibly corrupt and repressive. Sen. Barry Goldwater, hardly a radical, is the principal critic of continued aid, saying Saigon inevitably will fall to the Communists. If the American government hadn't intervened in Vietnam, a place so distant that 90 per cent of Americans didn't know what continent it is in, that country would have been spared millions of deaths and untold misery. Our country would have been spared 45,000 deaths and civil strife which ripped apart the fabric of society. No Memorial Day sermon can point to any positive good resulting from American intervention, and those who say "They didn't die in vain" obviously live apart from reality. ORATORS who deliver the Pentagon's prepared speeches on the need for more and more millions for defense are more realistic. They, at least, will have worked to protect their own interests, however inaccurate their horror pictures of barbarians storming the shores. The sermonizers are the willing captives of the military, however, and their Memorial Day performances will have revived the Cold War alarms and suspicions which tend to sag from one May to the next. I proposed last year to Ed Dickerson, who wears one of those veterans' organizations caps and arranges a good many observances in behalf of veterans, that he seek out a poet to deliver a Memorial Day talk, eschewing just once the grim colonels and fatuous preachers. Ed is an amiable fellow, and he asked me on the spot to speak at the next observance. But I'm not a poet. Surely he can find one before next year's observance. crates a 52-bed alcoholic treatment center at Freeport, N.Y. "There are more young people who are getting into trouble with alcohol," he said. "From November, 1972, to the present, we've treated about 155 people at my last count under the age of 25. "So it's in volumes of young people coming in for treatment now. "What we're seeing now is people are staring to drink earlier. Junior high, even into elementary schools, they're drinking." In 1973, the National Council on Alcoholism found that the youngest alcoholics coming to the group's attention had dropped in age from 14 to 12. *· WHY ALCOHOL? Herzlin offers this explanation : "Because that's the socially acceptable drug of our society, really, the socially accepted drug of the world. And young people follow the footsteps of their elders. "Because the other drugs have pretty much run their course. In New York, we have a very strict drug law. But we're seeing the same thing happening in all parts of our country. The deterioration of the use of heroin and many of the amphetamine drugs. "But we also see people getting off hard drugs and becoming almost instant alcoholics." Mel Warren is assistant director at the Bureau for Health and Physical Education for the New York City Board of Education. Warren says the use of alcohol has taken on an air of respectability these days, compared with use of other drugs. "What we fear today with our strong educational program driving kids away from so-called hard drugs, is that they seem to say, 'Well, if society is so much opposed to using drugs, alcohol seems to be acceptable. Mom uses it. Dad uses it. Very respectable.'" And many parents apparently say they would prefer having their kids drinking liquor than getting high on other drugs. "In the 1950s, there were some taboos on drinking until you reached a certain age," says Jeff Simpson, addiction specialist and director of the St. Benedict Hospital's Alcohol Chemical Dependency Treatment Center in Ogden, Utah. Simpson said young people began experimenting with other drugs that "really got parents paranoid" so that when their attention turned to use of liquor, "alcohol was viewed as not being as bad as before." Why? "Because he's not smokin' that weed, or he's not doing that awful drug s t u f f , " Simpson said. "And there's permissiveness about alcohol -- that it's almost all right, because, thank God, he's not shooting heroin." And, Simpson says there is "an even bigger trend for young people now to gain peer status with the use of alcohol." »· STEVE BRODSKY is a college student in New York who works with groups of high school students who are worried that they may have a drinking problem. "Supposedly the 'in' thing to do is to drink," Brodsky says. "When kids go out on a Saturday night, it's really cool to impress on a girl how much you can drink. Wow, I'm a man, I can pull six, seven shots of Scotch. A girl will drink something like a gin fizz or a Harvey Wallban- ger. That's-classy, impressive. "I notice in the cafeteria, students carry a little flask of gin. And they buy the orange juice and they just pour it in during lunch, hour." Sales of "pop" fruit-flavored wines are up from three million gallons in 1968 to 33 million in 1973. Advertising for these wines is primarily directed to younger consumers. FBI crime reports contain the following statistics: ··In 1960, there were 13,537 arrests of youngsters under 18 for drunkeness or driving while intoxicated. In 1971, the number was reported at 31,173. »-Six out of every 10 alcohol-related highway deaths involves a person 16 to 24 years of age. Young people are being encouraged to join Alcoholics Anonymous, oldest and largest organization for helping alcoholics. There are 650,000 members worldwide and although an A.A. spokesman declines to estimate how many of these are teenagers, she does say "there are lots of teenagers coming in. More and more young people." K MIA REPORTS THAT she was one of the first young people in A.A. in her area. She began attending when she came to New York to live with her mother. Now there are about 20, and they've formed a young people's group, she added. "Alcohol and drugs are the same thing. Alcohol is just a different kind of drug and you use it for the same reason. To get high. To escape. Whatever reasons you have. "But alcohol brings it much quicker. This is what I found. I quit drugs after two years and went into the booze very, very heavily because I felt I could get drunk much quicker and, you know, stay drunk longer." Nationally, there are an estimated 7,500 alcohol treatment centers for all age groups. Columbus Hospital in New York City recently expanded its alcohol treatment center to offer help to teenagers with drinking problems. S u ridayiG aze t t'e-Mail ffairs \ S." 5 s '' % » ; \- , \ »j x Charle/(0n, West Virginia 1C -- Mav26,1974 Dr. June Christmas, mental health and retardation commissioner, has estimated that 66,000 youngsters in New York are problem drinkers. And schools are apparently becoming involved. Mel Warren says alcohol education is now being taught in grades four through 12 in New York's public school system. W a r r e n says t h a t i n s t e a d of the "preachy, judgmental abstinence kind of approach that didn't work, educators are taking a more realistic approach." The emphasis instead is on wise use of drugs. "Number one, if someone chooses not to drink, let's respect that individual for that kind of decision. Let's not pressure him to be a drinker," Warren says. "If one opts and decides he wants to drink, drink responsibly. "I would say, today, our teachers are beginning to spend more time with alcohol education, perhaps less time with drugs. On combining their whole drug program into a mental health kind of approach, trying to get to the underlying problem that kids may have that turn them to alcohol." Herzlin says a mental health approach may mean the difference between the use and the abuse of alcohol. "Young people learn geometry and algebra and history and all that. They really don't learn how to live their lives with any sort of self-esteem. If a person really feels good about himself, he's not going to have to go overboard in drinking. He's not going to shoot drugs."

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