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Substance abuse where least expected Carroll County: County teens exceed state average in drug and alcohol use


NORMALLY, we enjoying hearing that Carroll teen-agers are above average. The latest Maryland Adolescent Survey, however, contains data showing that county teens are above average in one area where we would prefer them to be below the standard -- drug and alcohol use.

According to a Maryland Department of Education report, a greater percentage of Carroll's 10th and 12th graders use drugs and drink alcohol than the state average. The number is also greater than it was during the last survey, taken two years ago. To many parents, the results of the study are no surprise. Weekend keg parties are part of the teen social scene. Many kids admit they can easily obtain alcohol whenever they want.

The statistics reveal that Carroll's high school students regularly consume alcohol. About 81 percent of last year's seniors who were questionned said they had consumed an alcoholic beverage at least once. Even more troubling, 59 percent said they had a drink within 30 days of the survey. And 56 percent said they have had five or more drinks on the same occasion.

For 10th graders, the statistics are equally alarming. Nearly 70 percent of the sophomores said they had had a drink, and nearly half reported doing so within 30 days of the survey. Nearly a third of those had five or more drinks during the month preceding the survey. These statistics are all greater than the state average.

While many parents worry about their children driving while drunk, not too many think about the possibly fatal consequences of consuming large amounts of alcohol in one sitting. And the teens themselves also apparently underestimate the potential for alcohol poisoning.

Another disturbing statistic is that 21 percent of the seniors admitted using an inhalant -- paint thinner, aerosol sprays or glue. Regular inhalant use results in severe and permanent brain damage, yet the survey indicates many teens are oblivious to this warning.

Too many Carroll parents seem to believe that their bucolic setting far from urban ills lends an immunity from teen substance abuse problems. This report should jolt folks out of their complacency.

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