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Research shows youth should abstain from drugs and alcohol | Letter to the Editor
Thanks to Kirsten Frandsen for her column in the June 22 issue of The Beachcomber (“Drug and alcohol use among Vashon teens: Let science be our guide.”) As a Vashon resident, physician,Vashon High School graduate and parent, I very much agree with her. In teenagers the brain is still under construction. Society doesn’t condone alcohol consumption by pregnant women because we know it causes brain damage in the developing fetus. By the time that baby is an adolescent, the brain is still not fully mature and is more sensitive to the toxic effects of drugs and alcohol.
There are more than 2,000 articles about the adverse effects of underage drinking in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine alone, showing that teen alcohol use decreases the size and structure of the brain, damages memory and cognition and decreases attention span and the ability to learn.
Teens who drink are more likely to experience alcoholism and go on to further drug use. Alcohol is involved in more than one-third of the adolescent deaths associated with unintentional injury, homicide and suicide. In addition, substance use can cause or mask anxiety or depression.
Vashon not only appears to have permissive attitudes towards underage alcohol and drug use, but a steady supply — from alcohol and marijuana to meth and heroin. And although we know they cause neurological damage, we don’t know which child is predisposed to addiction.
We are a creative, intelligent community that loves its children. Maybe that is why we allow them the freedoms that we do. We believe in their capabilities and strengths so much that we can’t imagine a few drinks would harm them.
It is important to trust our kids but to also remember the adolescent developing within. Teens need both open communication and boundaries with substance use to help keep them safe. Early boundaries with substances are a lot easier than rehab later on.
— Kelly Wright