Young. Eager. And Drunk.
A 12-year-old binger? Believe it. Alcohol abuse starts early.
Reaching Younger Kids
Alcohol is the number-one drug problem in America, and it starts early --
long before high school," says Kappie Bliss, who directs an elementary
school pilot program for MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). "Since the
risk for alcohol and other drug use shoots up when children enter the sixth
grade, MADD saw the need for a prevention program for children in grades one
through five. We want children to know how to protect themselves, and that
includes making sure their own brains have a chance to develop into the best
brain possible -- undamaged physically by alcohol and able to think
"A Very Scary Ride," a story about two young boys picked up after
school by an inebriated uncle, sets up one lesson that Bliss took into a
Montana 2nd-grade classroom. "He smelled funny and was yelling, not nice
like usual," the story recounts.
"When we taught this lesson," says Bliss, "the students were so
inventive about what they could do, from going back into the school for a
'forgotten' book in order to tell a trusted adult, to saying they felt sick and
couldn't get in the car," says Bliss. The segment is part of an
eight-lesson series for each grade taught by trained volunteers, teachers, and
very carefully selected high school students. The program is scheduled to be
launched in fall 2000.
Charting the Damage
When Huggins visits high school classes, she takes an attention-getting
computer program that graphs blood alcohol rate depending on gender, weight,
and food intake. It offers students a quick look at the physiological effects
of having two drinks an hour, for example. (In this context, a drink is defined
as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of hard liquor.) Another
tool that shows the effects of alcohol is a pair of special glasses that
simulate alcohol-impairment. A boy and a girl try to walk a straight line with
and without the goggles. "Usually they stop, because they realize they
can't do it," says Huggins. "We always point out that if they'd been
drinking, they'd probably have lost that judgment too," says Huggins.
"Maybe they'd be driving."