Communication is key in addressing teen drug abuse

Editor’s note: According to statewide data, Vashon teens are more likely to have used marijuana or alcohol in the last 30 days than their peers statewide. A group of Islanders who work with youth or on youth-related issues has put together a series of talks and workshops focused on teens, parenting and drug and alcohol use in an ongoing effort to address teen substance abuse on Vashon.

The Beachcomber has asked several Islanders to write about the issue in the next several weeks. This is the third column.


For The Beachcomber

Vashon Island is a natural environment with a natural mindset.

For the teens in our community, this could mean anything from hiking or swimming in the Sound to smoking marijuana. Yet in this strict society, with rigid standards, the latter of the options is frowned upon.

Why is it that Vashon has one of the highest rates of substance abuse in the Puget Sound area?

According to The Riptide, the Vashon High School newspaper, 60 percent of upperclassmen smoke marijuana, and 70 percent drink.

But according to another survey done by the same newspaper, 60 percent of parents deny the harsh reality of substance abuse among their sons and daughters.

Where does the blame really lie? With the raging teenagers? Or with the adults, who seem to be in denial?

As two representatives of youth on Vashon, we believe the blame lies with neither. We feel that the core of the issue is communication.

If the two parties communicated clearly on the issue of substance abuse, a much healthier community would result. No matter how hard we try to eradicate drugs from modern day life, they will always exist.

Virtually no community exists today without some kind of substance around, whether it is alcohol, prescription pills or spray paint. Some grow in our soil, like psychedelic mushrooms, and it is literally impossible to get rid of them.

So, as teenagers, we hope that the focus is on communication between two separate entities — teenagers and adults — instead of wasting time trying to eliminate drugs entirely.

If the issue of substance abuse could be discussed freely between us, it would prevent bad situations from occurring — overdosing, drunk driving, alcohol poisoning. The truth is, whether adults like it or not, they have more experience than the average 17-year-old.

The Vashon Island Prevention and Intervention Team (VIPIT) has a goal of turning Vashon into the healthiest community possible. They have created many events that community members can attend to enhance their knowledge of the issues at hand. Many of theses events deal directly with VIPIT’s motto, “any use is abuse.”

Hopefully, attending these events will help bridge the communication gap between you and your children or vice versa.

As one of our role models, Beatnik Lawrence Ferlengetti, said, “Wake up. The world’s on fire!”

— Michael Butz and Meme Garcia-Cosgrove are juniors at Vashon High School school and active members of the Vashon Youth Council.

Classes and events

Several upcoming events deal with substance abuse and healthy communication between teens and their parents. Call Vashon Youth & Family Services at 463-5511 or see www.vyfs.org for more information.

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