Teens are often subject to peer pressure and may have the desire to fit in or look cool, whether it’s with the use of tobacco or illicit drugs, but there is one that is the leading killer of teens – alcohol.
Alcohol is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths per year among youth in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 56th Force Support Squadron Youth Center held an Alcohol Awareness and Pizza Party sponsored by the Children of Veterans Foundation April 25 on Luke Air Force Base to help teens make the right choice and say “no” to underage drinking.
“It’s important to educate teens about the effects of alcohol because if you look at the research, teens who start drinking have a tremendous risk of being alcohol dependent later in life,” said Capt. Sonja Raciti, 56th Medical Operations Squadron Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program manager and clinical psychologist. “Our goal is for teens to have some fun, gain extra knowledge, and to really understand the consequences that come with drinking alcohol early in life.”
The teens first took a short quiz to test their knowledge on alcohol-related topics, then went into a group discussion talking about how the media has an influence on teens, what teens and policy makers can do to prevent underage drinking, as well as the side effects of alcohol on a young person’s body.
“If we look at 15-to-16-year-olds who have engaged in some binge drinking activities, which is four or more drinks for girls and five or more drinks for boys, you can actually see differences in the amount of white matter in brain scans in comparison to teens who don’t drink,” Raciti said.
After discussing the effects of alcohol on a teen’s body, the teens put on fatal vision goggles. The “drunk” goggles allow the user to experience a realistic simulation of impairment. The teens took turns maneuvering around various colored cones. While some did better than others, they all agreed they wouldn’t drink and drive in the future.
“My favorite activity was wearing the goggles because looking through the glasses was really cool, and it was fun to do,” said Josh Anane, 14, son of Master Sgt. Fred Anane, 56th Maintenance Group Wing Plans scheduling and documentation superintendent. “It made me feel dizzy toward the end. The second pair of goggles was the hardest because they were more blurry, and it was harder to gauge how far I was from the cones. I would use what I learned today in the future because I don’t want to be someone who struggles with alcoholism, especially since I want to become a neurosurgeon one day.”
Senior Airman Jaimie Fleming, 56th MDOS behavioral health technician, said the event was a success.
“Overall, the event went well,” Fleming said. “They were quiet at first, but came around and really got what we were teaching them, and that’s the best part. If I can give them even one piece of information they use later to make a good decision, that’s the greatest payoff for me.”
For more information on future youth center teen drug and alcohol awareness events, call ADAPT at 623-856-3194.