|The Cost Of Alcohol!|
Posted by FoM on August 09, 1999 at 06:19:17 PT|
By Fritz Wiecking
Source: Washington Post
Juliet Eilperin's otherwise insightful depiction of Washington politics understated the substantive case behind the efforts of 90 organizations to include alcohol in the national youth anti-drug media campaign ["Beer Lobby Keeps Anti-Drug Drive Alcohol-Free," news story, July 23].
Health experts are nearly unanimous that alcohol is by far the leading drug of use and abuse by teenagers. It causes more deaths among teens than all other drugs combined. According to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, underage drinking costs society $58 billion per year.
Moreover, federal statistics show that drinking as a youth dramatically increases the likelihood that one will become a problem drinker or an alcoholic -- or go on to use, abuse and become addicted to other drugs. Delaying, even by a year or two, the age at which people begin to drink is one of the most effective ways to prevent drug abuse.
The public seems to understand this. In a recent national poll commissioned by Center for Science in the Public Interest, Americans reported -- by better than a 3 to 1 margin -- that the biggest drug problem faced by children is alcohol, not heroin, crack or marijuana. More than 90 percent of the respondents believed that the national anti-drug media campaign should discourage underage drinking.
Comment #1 posted by FoM on August 09, 1999 at 11:04:10 PT:|
E-Centre Concert Shows Alcohol's Strong Pull On The Young
Some drank so much that they wound up hospitalized. Teens said breaking the rules was part of the attraction.
Limp and lifeless, she was 16 and from Ocean City, a casualty of a daylong rock concert Tuesday at Camden's Waterfront Entertainment Centre. When an emergency medical crew took her to the hospital at 7 p.m., doctors found the alcohol in her blood was almost four times the legal limit.
"It was close to life-threatening," said Ion Chuang, medical director of the emergency room at Virtua-West Jersey Hospital Camden. "When a person drinks so much alcohol that they become totally unconscious, at some point it becomes a risk of suffocation."
The girl survived, but she was among scores of people at the annual Y-100 Feztival taken to hospitals for alcohol intoxication or arrested for underage drinking.
"The audience was well-behaved," said John Huff, the E-Centre's executive director. "And for a show of that length and an audience of that size, we had relatively minor incidents and really no problems with the audience.
We took every precaution to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests, and we feel that we were successful and continue to be successful in that endeavor."
For an 11-hour show with a sold-out crowd of more than 25,000, the number of alcohol-related problems was small, Huff said. But to doctors, police and some concertgoers, Tuesday's experience suggests that teenage alcohol consumption has reached an alarming level.
"There's definitely more drinking than there used to be," said Rob Bower, 18, of Moorestown, who attended the concert. "But that's attributable to the fact that they're breaking some kind of rules.
I think if it was legalized, it wouldn't be as much of a problem. Those people that tend to overdo it would learn what their limit was."
State police undercover officers arrested nine people in or near the E-Centre for drinking under the legal age of 21. And authorities listed 65 emergency-room cases, most alcohol-related: 32 at Virtua-West Jersey Hospital Camden, 28 at Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center, and 5 at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.
"That was the most I've seen," said Michael Kirchhoff, chief resident in the emergency room at Cooper since 1994, a year before the E-Centre opened. "I was surprised at the age range. They were younger than I would have expected. I was also rather surprised by the lack of other drug use. No marijuana, no cocaine, no heroin. It was, remarkably, just alcohol ingestion."
Ten of those cases were considered serious, requiring intravenous fluids and lab work, Kirchhoff said. All involved patients between age 15 and 21. "I can't preach to parents and tell them how to control their children," he said, "but the use of alcohol in the setting of high temperatures has a much-increased risk of dehydration."
Tuesday's weather was mostly sunny, with temperatures ranging from 81 degrees at 10 a.m. to 90 at 5 p.m. The humidity was a relatively comfortable 35 percent to 40 percent. The concert started at 12:30 p.m., but many people showed up early for tailgating parties in the parking lots.
Indeed, Chuang said his hospital's first patient was brought in at 11:30 a.m. "A lot of the kids did not even make it into the concert," he said. "They were drunk before the concert. They came in with tickets in their pockets."
Chuang said suburbanites from Pennsylvania and New Jersey predominated.
"Some of the girls were more concerned about their parents finding out and getting into trouble with their parents, and their parents being disappointed with them, than with their condition," he said, adding that he was startled at the number of girls who had been drinking hard liquor.
"A disproportionate amount of cases were girls," Chuang said.
Both doctors credited Emergency Medical Services crews operated by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with using good judgment in treating and transporting patients. EMS crews treated scores of people inside the E-Centre, many for alcohol-related ailments.
Chuang said teenage girls risked becoming victims of sexual assaults. "There were some women in a state that was so vulnerable that if EMS had not done their job, I think it really left a huge potential for that to happen," he said.
Beer and wine are sold to consumers of legal age inside the E-Centre, and hard liquor is available to season-ticket and box-seat holders in a VIP lounge.
But most of the drinking Tuesday went on in the parking lots, attendees said.
Pete Mishler, 18, of Moorestown, who attended the concert, said he and some friends were attacked about 4 p.m. in a parking lot by youths who should have been arrested for drinking by Camden police patrolling in marked cars.
"All of a sudden, kids that were drunk came over to where we were hanging out, and just decided it would be cool to fight us, outnumbering me and 12 of my friends," said Mishler, a Moorestown High graduate who was on the honor roll and is to attend Emerson College in Boston next year.
"When they came over, they all had beers in bottles. One of the primary weapons used at concerts when people want to fight are bottles. Some of my friends were injured and taken away. Everything from face cuts to body stabs. Head wounds, too.
"There was plenty of police there. They broke up the fight and sprayed all of us with pepper spray. They drive the parking lots and check things out, but unless people are fighting they wouldn't arrest anyone.
People would be holding beers and they were clearly underage. I don't think that's particularly OK at all, because that's how the fight started."
Camden Police Lt. Joseph Richardson said no arrests were made by his department for underage drinking, but not because officers purposely ignored it. "We would have zero tolerance for underage drinking," he said.
Some residents near the E-Centre complain of young men and women urinating outdoors on concert days. "They have open urination all over the place," said a 45-year-old man who lives at Front and Linden Streets, and who asked that his name not be printed.
"When they need to relieve themselves, they go everywhere. Even the girls, they go behind my house. I've seen them pull their pants down and they just do what they've got to do out there."
Some concertgoers attributed the problem to an insufficient number of portable toilets in the parking lots. But Huff, the E-Centre's executive director, said as many as 15 toilets are provided in the lots.
To be sure, alcohol was not the only substance used by concertgoers to get high Tuesday. Many inhaled balloons filled with nitrous oxide, sold in the parking lots, concert attendees said.
Camden police confiscated 22 nitrous oxide tanks in the area around the E-Centre, but no one was arrested. "There will be a group of people around a tank," said Richardson of the Camden police.
"We drive up and all of a sudden the people just disperse and leave the tank there. So then we confiscate the tank as found property."
Still, it seems that alcohol consumption comes with the territory.
"Concerts are really the place to be, if you want to go somewhere and drink and have fun," Mishler said. "As long as there will be teenagers, there will be drinking. But I think that at concerts in general, it's just so accepted for teenagers to drink."
© 1998 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.