She’s young, tall-model-slender, beautiful and with a song bird voice. I’ll call her Annie. And, today she sits in jail, serving a lengthy term for her history with drugs. Like so many others, her road to trouble started with alcohol.
So, we all want our children safe, right? Few debates elicit unity in the way child protection issues do. Here in the East Valley we’re a family community and we work hard at providing every opportunity for the next generations. But still many are not willing to provide safety at adult expense. Case in point: the world’s addiction to alcohol.
Did you know Arizona ranks at the top nationally in regards to youth drinking (U.S. Center for Disease Control, June 8, 2012)? Arizona high schools surveyed rank No. 1 “for alcohol use and binge drinking” and No. 2 “for cocaine use and drinking alcohol on school property.”
We yip and carry on about gun dangers, yet right in our own homes are the roots of not only death, some of them slow and torturous, but also the collapse of marriages, endless lost jobs and more sorrows than can be recounted in one little column. Just ask Annie.
It’d be a wonderful world if there were no killing machines, but humans have proven we’ll still find a way to do ourselves and others in. It’s when we lead our kids down destructive paths that we really stand condemned. Yet we remain complacent because we don’t binge and are not addicted — so what’s the big deal, right?
I’ve harped on this before, but when we see news reports about high school students binging, and dying, and involved in alcohol-related rapes and other violence, the topic cries to be revisited with the same passion as gun control, infant car seats and fast food.
Experts tell us in today’s culture, teens feel extreme social pressure to drink. Then, as their youth/adult crossroads overflow with confusion they discover alcohol suppresses feelings. Without adults to show them a better way, their choices are predictable.
Still not convinced?
Think about this: Women are the fastest growing segment of the alcohol abusing population. Yet, women’s bodies are less tolerant to alcohol than men. Further, “binge drinking can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, heart disease, unintentional pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and auto accidents” (CDC).
Of 23,000 annual deaths attributed to excessive alcohol use among females, binge drinking accounts for more than half (CDC).
One other small fact: The CDC reports for every gun related death, there are 10 alcohol related deaths. Yeah, let’s “get the guns.”
Politics drive this issue; we know that, while one of the biggest killers ever is sitting right in children’s homes, used by their parents, night after night “just to relax,” or as a primary social beverage.
Not your problem? Really? This is one monster failure of society. The effects touch everyone from taxes to spiritual deprivation. Ask Annie and all the others.
Why wait for social norms to change? As just one parent, your example and educated outreach might save a child, or dozens. One of them might just belong to you.
• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.