Youth can make the difference

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By The Staff

When it comes to drug use in Bedford, youth can make the difference.

This is the conclusion from a report about drug abuse student councils in colleges. This could also be applied to junior high schools and high schools.

In observing the fine youth we have in this quiet community, one might think that we do not have to worry about substance abuse. However, the Youth Survey Report, Bedford City/County 2004 reveals the following. “eestudents in Bedford County Public School District reported higher average levels of smokeless tobacco, cigarette, inhalant and alcohol use and binge drinking than their national counterparts” (p.33).

Just a few months ago, the sheriff’s office closed down an illegal drug distribution center within 1,000 feet of Liberty high school. My wife has talked with youth who claim they can get drugs whenever they want. We know other youth who are trapped in vicious addiction and have been in and out of rehab and also of the court system.

Although many people are doing good things to help youth, it is important that youth be taught to help themselves. When friends or peers egg them on, youth are much more likely to engage in substance abuse. “Overall, Bedford County Public School District students received a percentile score of 57 on the Peer Rewards for Antisocial Behavior scale, seven points higher than the normative average of 50.” (Youth Survey Report, Bedford City/County 2004, p. 26. Google Bedford Community Coalition- Report on Substance Abuse).

Mobilized youth can change this negative peer influence. It is important that youth help inform their friends of the high risk of substance abuse. The perception and understanding of risk is a major factor in influencing youth not to use alcohol and drugs. When the perception of risk rises, the use decreases. This points to the value of education and community and peer pressure. If local government, schools and churches encourage youth to do what they are able to do, the drug abuse situation in Bedford can be turned around.

A great part of the risk is that most life-long addictions start when one is young. “The average age when youth first try alcohol is 11 years for boys and 13 years for girls. The average age at which Americans begin drinking regularly is 15.9 years old.” (Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Chairman and President, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University).

“Studies have shown that alcohol use by youth and young adults increases the risk of both fatal and nonfatal injuries. Research has also shown that youth who use alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than adults who begin drinking at age 21. Other consequences of youth alcohol use include increased risky sexual behaviors, poor school performance, and increased risk of suicide and homicide.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dept. of Health and Human Services, Alcohol & Public Health).

About 1 out of 3 young smokers will eventually die from a tobacco related disease. We know we have a problem that is draining tax dollars away from important services. When youth use tobacco and alcohol, they are endangering their lives and disrupting the welfare of the community.

Youth can help change that, through the development of student drug abuse councils that mobilize all concerned youth to educate and encourage each other to reject the use of destructive drugs. Those of us in the Bedford Christian Fellowship believe that Christian youth should be encouraged by their churches to take a lead in this educational process because Jesus Christ can give youth the dynamic power that will keep them free from drug abuse. Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs have rediscovered the power of God in helping a person overcome addictions. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ gives one the power to live free from addictions.

But whether one has a spiritual or secular perspective, we need to acknowledge that we have a severe problem and take whatever steps we can to help vulnerable teens get through a difficult period of their lives without self-destructive props and habits.

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The Bedford Christian Fellowship is an ecumenical group of Christian men who meet monthly for prayer, fellowship, and mutual support. For more information about the Fellowship, you may contact them in care of 1109 Park Street, Bedford, VA 24523If you have a need for daily prayer support we suggest you call the Upper Room Toll Free Prayer Line at (800)-251-2468.