Students meet at summit in Anderson Township to talk about alcohol, substance abuse in schools

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP - If you ask most parents at what age they think teenagers start drinking, chances are their guesses will be wrong.

This proved true at Substance Awareness Greater Anderson's (SAGA) 2013 High School Youth Summit in Anderson Township on Tuesday, when 90 teenagers form Archbishop McNicholas, Turpin and Anderson High Schools gathered at Zion Lutheran Church to talk about combating alcohol, prescription drug and marijuana use and abuse.

Parents at the event guessed kids take the first sip around age 10 or 11. The teens disagreed, saying that it happens between the ages of 13 and 14, and most parents don't even realize it. 

"It's not something that just seniors do," said 18-year-old Lizzie Mullett, a senior at Turpin. "It's spread all the way from seventh through twelfth grade."

Social media party planning

That's not the only thing that's flying under the radar.

When the teens met in groups discuss talking to peers about staying away from illegal substances, they said the chatter about partying starts on social media; just not networks parents are part of, like Facebook.

"Everything is on Twitter," Mullett said.

The use of Twitter or Instagram to spread the word about parties was echoed by Anne Marie Watkins, 17, from Anderson High School.

"Most parents don't know how to work it," Watkins said. "It's easier, it's not as family-oriented."

At the summit both Watkins and Mullett were members of a peer group that spoke to students about alcohol use.

"We know the harmful effects," Watkins said. "(We're here) to show each other how we can prevent it."

The group chose three things they think parents should know about teen drinking:

  • it's accessible
  • it starts at a young age
  • teens would rather hear about the consequences from someone around their age

Tracking trends

SAGA surveys students every two years about marijuana, alcohol and prescription drug abuse, said Director Lea Beck. 

Although students at the summit said they don't see many problems with prescription drug abuse at their schools, some did admit they know of classmates who go to Clifton to buy medications like Vyvanse, which is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).

Absent from the summit was a major mention of tobacco use, which Beck said has subsided among teens thanks to state restrictions on smoking in public places.

"Cigarettes trend down," she said. "Marijuana is (used) more."

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