A town meeting on teenage substance abuse will be presented by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10 ) at McLean High School on Monday, April 4, featuring a discussion on teenage drinking by Koren Zailckas, author of the book “Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood.”
“This is a good place to have a town meeting, where lots of parents came come with their children,” said Daniel Scandling, press secretary from Wolf’s office in Washington.
“There will be presentations by John Walters, the director of the Office of National Drug Policy, and Wendy Johnson, the president of MADD,” he said.
The goal of the evening will be to increase awareness of the teen drug problem, but also to “give parents a way to understand if there’s a problem with their children and how to deal with it if such a problem arises,” Scandling said.
With the proximity to Washington, Scandling said Wolf believes he should help bring some of the government officials to public meetings in order to share their expertise with residents.
“We’ve reached out to the PTA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, various other community clubs and organizations to help get the word out,” he said. “We want to help people understand what signs of an abuse problem are and how to help their children.”
With the increased number of teenaged drivers becoming involved in fatal car accidents in recent years, meetings of this nature are becoming more and more important, Wolf believes.
“It’s spring now, and it’s spring break season. Soon it will be prom season and then graduation party season,” Scandling said. “We’re trying to provide the information to keep kids safe.”
Johnson is a resident of Middletown who became involved with MADD after a third accident caused by a drunk driver took the lives of her cousin and newborn son.
“Whether your child is involved in drinking or partying or is riding in the car with someone who was, you never know when someone’s going to cross the center line,” she said. “Parents need to realize that their attitudes towards alcohol, whether they drink or not, impacts their kids.”
Johnson said recent research has shown that the brain is not fully developed until sometime in the early 20s, and exposure to alcohol before the age of 21 can impair brain development.
“A lot of kids think they’re invincible, but teenagers represent between 13 and 14 percent of the 17,000 alcohol-related accident fatalities every year,” she said.