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Underage drinking causes myriad problems

Lauren Wheatley, deputy prosecutor for Harrison County, refers to alcohol as ‘the gateway drug.’
‘And it can be enough to kill you,’ she said.
Wheatley and seven other persons served on a panel at a town hall meeting at the Gerdon Youth Center in Corydon on April 4 to discuss underage drinking. Many high school students and adults had the opportunity to learn more about an often fatal addiction, methamphetamine, at a program on April 10. (See related story above.)
Katharine Sadler, coordinator of the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition who hosted the underage drinking forum, said that a Search Institute Attitudes and Behavior Survey of 10th graders from three of the county’s four high schools indicated that 41 percent of those sophomores surveyed have used alcohol in the month prior to completing the survey, with 17 percent of those students drinking between three and nine times in a given time period. Additionally, 65 percent of the students said they had been at a party in the past year where alcohol was served.
Those students who choose to drink often create problems for school administrators even though they are drinking off campus.
Gary Pope, assistant principal at Corydon Central High School, said he deals with the repercussions of weekend parties during the ‘Monday morning afters.’
He said he is amazed by how hard some parents work to deny what their children have done.
‘Parent knowledge and education’ are big steps in solving the problem of underage drinking, he said.
‘It’s not (just) boys and girls in high school,’ said Janet Page, principal at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School. ‘It gets younger all the time.’
Page, who formerly worked for the New Albany-Floyd County School Corp., said the size of the school also doesn’t matter.
‘Many parents still have the attitude that they would rather have (their children) at home drinking,’ she said. ‘I was surprised by that.’
Jeff Skaggs, a probation officer for Harrison Superior Court, reminded the youth in the audience that they ‘don’t need alcohol to talk to a person of the opposite sex … You’ll be better off if you realize that.’
He said often teens think that having a couple of drinks improves their social skills. But that’s not true, he said.
Dr. C.M. Hocker Jr., who has a practice in Palmyra, said alcoholism and drug addiction are an illness and that those who suffer from either can respond to treatment.
‘I hear (from people) that treatment is expensive,’ he said. ‘It’s more expensive not to treat.’
Hocker said experts are still learning about the long-term effects of alcohol on adolescents. He said drinking does lead to poor school performance.
‘Poor school performance leads to other problems,’ he said. ‘Those under the effect (of alcohol) often make poor choices, such as risky sexual choices.’
Sadler said the Coalition sponsored the forum ‘to raise awareness of the risks of underage drinking,’ which ‘starts early and increases rapidly with age.’