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The Team





 Tell Captain Morgan &
his Kind to Take A Hike!


It's Friday night and you've had a long, tiring week. You just want to unwind and relax, so when you get home, you plop on the couch and flip on the TV to channel surf. Nothing too interesting, just a few commercials catch your eye. There's the Wazzup! ad that you and your friends have laughed about and imitated. Images in the cool crisp air of the Rockies drift by filled with happy, attractive people playing in the snow. And then there's the guy who's tired of shopping with his girl, so he disappears into another world to escape . He really knows how to get away from it all. Your friends call and say there's a big party going on tonight and they'll pick you up in a few. You turn off the tube and start thumbing through a magazine while you wait. Captain Morgan entices you to join the party filled with women and men who are always young, sexy and available.

We've all seen the advertisements. Some ideas have become national entertainment, and we imitate and joke about them at home, school and work. But there is another side to drinking alcohol that the commercials don't show you. I'm sure you've heard about it, but maybe you don't believe the hype or think it has anything to do with you. Continue on and see if you're in the know about alcohol, the most widely used drug in the United States, according to the US Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Myth #1 - Drinking alcohol makes the party far more interesting and entertaining:

What's a party without the keg and flaming shots, right? This is how people relax and forget about life's little problems. At least that's what appears to be the case in the media, but you should know "life's little problems" don't go away after a night of indulging in mind-altering substances. If anything, they could make things even more difficult to deal with. Ask anyone who has awakened in vomit, with the dry heaves, or even the shakes. Real fun.

If you drink a lot of alcohol in a very short time, you can die of alcohol poisoning. The people who usually die from this kind of drinking are teens.

Use of alcohol or other drugs at an early age is an indicator of future alcohol or drug problems; people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at 21. Makes sense that the legal drinking age is 21, doesn't it?

Studies of suicide victims in the general population show that about 20% are alcoholic.

Drinking makes you attractive and desirable. If that were true, we'd all be bathing in it. What alcohol does do, however, is lower your inhibitions (that little voice inside you that prevents you from talking to that hottie you've had your eye on for weeks). With your inhibitions/defenses down, you suddenly turn into a suave, smooth talking individual , yes?

Alcohol use is implicated in one- to two-thirds of sexual assault and acquaintance or "date" rape cases among teens and college students.

A survey of high school students found that 18% of females and 39% of males say it is acceptable for a boy to force sex if the girl is stoned or drunk.

Girls get HIV infection and AIDS more easily from boys than boys do from girls. Among all teens who drink, 16% use condoms less often after drinking.

Myth #2 - Drinking enhances your senses and makes your reflexes sharper:

Now you're really ready to let loose . The alcohol is flowing; you're laughing and dancing with your friends. It's time to show them what you can really do.

Alcohol contributes to 100,000 deaths annually (including motor-vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides), making it the third leading cause of preventable mortality in the US. Ever seen anyone jump from a three-story building into a swimming pool? Maybe if they weren't drunk they would have noticed it didn't have any water in it and they would still be alive. Sounds stupid but it happens all too often.

The total cost of alcohol use by youth - including traffic crashes, violent crime, burns, drowning, suicide attempts, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisonings and treatment -- is more than $58 BILLION per year according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence - NCADD (http://www.ncadd.org). Imagine using that money to pay teachers what they are worth. If you think that school sucks, it's probably because your school doesn't have the funding to do cool things that you would like. Imagine your school getting new computers with really fast video cards. Or having the money to take your class to Rome to study ancient history where it happened. Wouldn't that be better than spending a week in the hospital getting thirty stitches in your face and a dozen pins set into your shattered leg because you didn't want to seem chicken about driving after having a few beers?

Now that you know that alcohol isn't all that, you can do something to Make A Difference. Use the links on this page to educate yourself and others about the short and long term effects of drinking alcohol: http://www.health.org/catalog/Index.htm

Afterwards, visit the Alcohol Awareness website (http://www.runet.edu/~kcastleb/quiz.html) and take the RU AWARE? quiz that tests your alcohol knowledge.

If you have already begun drinking alcohol on a regular basis, check out the NCADD self-test for teenagers(http://www.ncadd.org/facts/youth1.html). The site will tell you all you need to know.

For those of you who are concerned about the affects alcohol is having on people your age, there are sites you can visit to learn about programs you can put together at your school or in the community. SADD, Students Against Driving Drunk (www.saddonline.com) has chapters all over the United States. Find out how to start one in your area.

What's Driving You? (http://wwwwhatsdrivingyou.org) is a teen site with an interactive storyline designed to get you to think about the choices people make when it comes to drinking and driving. You go through a scenario, make decisions for a character and see how things turn out. Finally, the University of Illinois at Chicago also has a website with information specifically for teens through a program called ImpacTeen (http://www.uic.edu/orgs/impacteen/).

If you or someone you know is already in trouble with alcohol there are places out there especially with teens in mind. Al-anon, the national support group for adults with alcoholic spouses, has created Alateen to address these issues from a specific point of view.

The information and assistance that you need to make the right decisions are out there. Take the time to tune out the TV commercials and flip by the magazine ads to glimpse the other side of the glamorous images of drinking in the media. Take in the grim realities of alcohol head on with your eyes wide open. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it may just save your life.



Links to Other Dispatches

Teddy - The heroic and fateful quest of the Nez Perce
Nick - Massacres and mayhem: manifest destiny at its worst
Nick - Sitting Bull wins one for the Lakota Indians!
Steph - Potatoes, beans and cornbread. It's the life of a cowboy
Neda - Never give up: the story of Geronimo
Irene - East Meets West in the Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad