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Teen drinking is no minor problem

Parents, students learn dangers of alcohol at town hall meeting, including how alcoholic products can seem innocent.

April 29, 2011|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com
  • TeWinkle teenagers listen to panelists speak at the "Minor Drinking-Major Problems" town hall meeting at Rea Elementary School.
TeWinkle teenagers listen to panelists speak at the "Minor… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

COSTA MESA — Parents with kids in tow packed Rea Elementary School's multipurpose room for a two-hour bilingual town hall meeting Thursday night on the dangers of underage drinking.

"Minor Drinking — Major Problems" gave residents facts about the prevalence of teen drinking, its dangers to developing youths, the legal liabilities of supplying minors with alcohol, and products parents might not realize that contain alcohol.

"This is a big concern for all of us because, as you know, in their young age, alcohol and teenagers is not a good mix," said moderator and TeWinkle Intermediate School Principal Rich Rodriguez.

The meeting, which was sponsored by TeWinkle's English Learners Advisory Committee and the Orange County chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, came together after a survey showed higher rates of teen drinking in Newport Beach than in other parts of the county.

In the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, 23% of freshmen reported having had at least one drink in the past 30 days in the state Department of Education's California Healthy Kids Survey for 2010, according to the meeting.

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That number shoots up to 50% by the time students are juniors.

The majority of teens are consuming five or more drinks in two hours, said Dr. Gary Goodman, who works in Children's Hospital of Orange County's Pediatric Critical Care.

That much alcohol can cause comas, lung failure, choking, seizures, lower body temperature and even death, he said.

"Alcohol is a drug just like heroin or marijuana or cocaine," Goodman said. "It's a drug and it can hurt your body."

It can also cause short- and long-term brain damage, he said.

The frontal lobe, which is responsible for critical thinking, develops until the ages of 21 to 24, said Michaell Rose, Hoag Hospital's mental health program manager.

It's up to parents to do the critical thinking for their kids and most of all be parents, not friends, she said.

"I don't need the parents to be the buddy and the cool person," she said. "That is not helpful. You are not equal."

Shelly Bishop, with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control, also warned parents about providing minors with alcohol or letting them drink in their homes.

If something happens, the children will be in big trouble and the adult will be facing criminal action, she said.

"It doesn't matter if it's at your house, an adult is supervising or not; it's illegal," she said.

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