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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Speaker: Drug culture targets youth

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Jermaine Galloway, nationally recognized for his anti-alcohol and drug efforts, spoke about youth alcohol and drug culture and trends at the second annual Piedmont Alcohol Awareness Conference Plus (PAAC+) on Monday.

About 80 people attended the day-long conference at Patrick Henry Community College.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, people 12 to 20 years old drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States, and more than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed through binge drinking.

Galloway said people binge drink to get drunk.

In talking about access to alcohol, Galloway, among other things, referred to a 2011 study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to determine whether minors can successfully purchase alcohol online and to examine age verification procedures at the points of order and delivery.

According to an abstract (or summary) of the study on the Journal of the American Medical Association website, eight 18- to 20-year-olds attempted to purchase alcohol from 100 popular Internet vendors. Of the 100 orders placed by the underage buyers, 45 percent were successfully received, and 28 percent were rejected as the result of age verification. Fifty-nine percent of vendors used weak, if any, age verification at the point of order. Twenty-three (51 percent) of the 45 successful orders used no age verification. Age verification at delivery was inconsistently conducted and, when attempted, failed about half of the time, according to the abstract.

“Age verification procedures used by Internet alcohol vendors do not adequately prevent online sales to minors. Shipping companies should work with their staff to improve administration of age verification at delivery, and vendors should use rigorous age verification at order and delivery,” the abstract stated.

Galloway also talked about the availability of low-cost, high-alcohol-content beverages sold at stores that often come in containers with colorful or “funky” designs and in fruity flavors.

Other trends/cases he mentioned or showed news media reports about included: tampons being soaked in vodka and inserted into the body, a woman who drank hand sanitizer (which has a very high alcohol content) before driving, and people who pour vodka directly onto their eyes, all of which carry possible health risks. He told of a student who drank hand sanitizer at a school. Galloway encouraged local schools to try to place their hand sanitizers in supervised locations.

He also talked about gummy candy being soaked in vodka and later eaten in small amounts.

He mentioned beer pong, a beer-drinking game. He said some retailers arrange merchandise such as ping pong balls and alcoholic beverages close together to encourage sales.

He said some store clerks who are busy don’t really look at or think about people’s IDs.

He noted that more high school students now smoke marijuana than cigarettes and that they generally see marijuana as less dangerous than cigarettes.

A brochure distributed at the conference says that “another serious drug threat that has recently emerged is the growing distribution and abuse of a class of synthetic substances that have stimulant/psychoactive properties when ingested and that are sold as ‘bath salts’ or ‘plant food.’”

Galloway talked about various other cultural influences that he thinks promote alcohol or other drug use, such as logos on clothing, slang words, musical lyrics and musical artists who use or promote the use of drugs.

Galloway presented some local statistics. According to the Virginia Department of Health Medical Examiner’s 2010 annual report, there were eight drug poisoning deaths in Henry County (a rate of 14.8 per 100,000 people), two deaths in Martinsville (a rate of 14.5) and three deaths in Patrick County (a rate of 16.2). There were 656 deaths in Virginia, a rate of 8.2.

The 2010 report indicates there were six prescription drug deaths in Henry County (a rate of 11.1 per 100,000), two deaths in Martinsville (a rate of 14.5) and two deaths in Patrick County (a rate of 10.8). There were 350 deaths in Virginia, a rate of 4.4.

The report indicates there were three cocaine/heroin deaths in Henry County (a rate of 5.5 per 100,000), and none in Martinsville or Patrick County. There were 114 deaths in Virginia, a rate of 1.4.

Galloway talked about signs and symptoms of use of opiates, stimulants and depressants.

In an interview, Katie Connelly, community organizer for Piedmont Community Services and coordinator of HEY Community Task Force and CHILL, said she believes prescription drug abuse is the No. 1 drug problem in this area, that alcohol and marijuana use are “right up there,” and that cocaine/heroin use is a smaller but growing problem. CHILL, a youth task force, stands for Communities Helping Improve Local Lives. HEY stands for Helping Engage Youth and is a group of adults.

Connelly said during the interview or in comments during the conference that the community needs to work together to promote positive, healthful lifestyle choices. She said most local students already are making “the right choices.”

Other topics featured at the conference were: building youth assets in the community, changing tobacco use policies, why what the Virginia Department of ABC does is important, what youth leadership does for a community, gangs, the brain, poverty and prescription drugs in the home. Those topics “help those attending have a better perspective on the factors that affect drug use in our community and what strategies work to lower this problem,” Connelly said in a news release.

Among those who attended the conference were students and officials of local schools; representatives of local law enforcement, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Martinsville-Henry County After 3, Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness, Piedmont Community Services (PCS); and parents, said Bonnie Favero, prevention manager at PCS.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency through the Virginia Department of ABC provided grant funding for the event, a news release states.


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