Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Editorial – Parents need to model, teach youth to adhere to state and federal drug and alcohol use laws


Most parents and guardians worry about their children. As children enter their preteen and teen years, and threats from the surrounding community seem to become a clear and present danger, some parents and/or guardians consider providing a safe place for their youth to experiment with alcohol, or provide youth with the adult’s own supply of marijuana or drugs in an attempt to insure the supply is “safe.”

Supervised use of illegal substances sets a bad precedent and example for youth regardless of the “good” intentions of guardians. 

In a study in Lancet Public Health, which followed 1,900 Austrailian adolescents for six years, teens who were provided with access to alcohol from home are not protected from the dangers of alcohol, and may be more likely to drink and suffer from alcohol-related harms. 

The first health concern is that teens are still developing, both physically and mentally, and the early use of alcohol and other drugs, even marijuana, can negatively impact that physical and subsequently mental and emotional development. 

We want our children to be the best they can be — healthy and equipped with all of the natural strength of mind and body they will need — to be successful in this world. If that is a true statement, then why do we model for them or allow them to use substances that will lesson rather than enhance their natural abilities?

In addition, permitting the use of illegal substances shows parental/guardian approval, which instead of limiting use without parental supervision, it just encourages general use with or without parental supervision. Even giving sips or whole glasses on occasion gives the wrong impression. 

“Giving whole glasses is probably worse than giving sips, but giving sips does not protect and still causes harm,” said Richard Mattick, a professor of Drug and Alcohol Studies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney who lead the study.

The USA Today article reports, “‘The bottom line is providing alcohol for young people basically backfires,’ said George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a federal agency. Throwing a party inevitably means teens who are already heavy drinkers will turn up, he said, “and they train the other kids to be binge drinkers.”

In addition to supervised parties, youth tend to get alcohol and other illegal substances from relatives or friends who have turned 21 or who have a supplier. 

These friends and relatives usually are either “helping” the teens experiment and have a “good time”  or making money off of them. 

Permitting the use of alcohol and supplying youth with it contradicts efforts to create a safe community for our children. 

Many suicides result from alcohol and drug abuse. Deaths and serious injuries have occurred after young people have been supplied by adults the alcohol or other drugs they consume. 

Why would we as adults want to encourage our youth to face these potentially fatal situations? 

Another issue for family members results when we know certain family members are providing the alcohol or drugs to youth, and we are faced with the question: will we tell our relative to stop, and if he or she will not stop supplying our youth, will we turn them in to law enforcement for contributing to minors or for dealing drugs? 

When challenged to report a relative to the criminal justice system, we may think twice, but we should consider the potential damage our children will suffer, and the future they may lose if we remain silent. 

We have a system of laws designed to protect the rights and all people and the health of each of us. When adults contribute illegal substances to minors in any way, they contribute to potentially damaging the health and futures of those minors. These adults also perpetuate the addiction issues in the community as they model their lax or addictive behaviors for youth when they hand the addictive substances to youth on a deceptively silver platter.  

We as adults should make access to drugs and alcohol more difficult and less appealing to youth, teaching them patience and moderation as they grow, and having them earn the right to drink at 21, and if they want to fight for the legalization of marijuana through the political and legislative system, then we all do so using the system established to make such changes. If the system fails to move as fast as we want it to, then we do as Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. did, we construct acts of organized civil disobedience to challenge the laws we deem unjust or illogical. 

There is nothing wrong with parents teaching their youth to be patient by waiting until they are of legal age to drink and to learn how to make and challenge laws in the community and country if they disagree with those laws. 

By adhering to laws that regulate alcohol and drug use, we can prevent many unnecessary deaths, lost hopes and dreams, broken families and burdensome addictions, and we can teach our youth self-discipline, patience, and ways to change what they do not like within the governing system we have established to protect the freedoms and health of our people. 

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