ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The challenge Marion County faces with underage drinking, compared to most other counties in Kansas, is smaller in quantity, but no less severe. Our county may rank among the 10 most fortunate counties in this state in terms of percentage of underage drinkers, but any child or teen who consumes alcohol puts her or his future in danger. And that’s a call to action for anyone who claims to care about children.
In her presentation at Thursday’s town hall meeting, Linda Ogden, director of the county’s Communities in Schools program, said scientific studies on brain development suggest the consumption of alcohol by teenagers puts them at increased risk.
Scientists now believe the brain develops into a person’s early 20s, and that the portion of the brain that governs emotions matures earlier than the part of the brain responsible for planning, self-control and decision-making.
The result, they say, is that the immaturity of cognitive processing in teens may lead to risky decisions, and that strong emotions may override rational thinking. When alcohol enters that equation, the opportunity for disaster looms large.
All of us can do something to help our youth protect themselves from themselves. It begins with a determination to do so. At the town hall meeting, we heard a call for newspapers to give more aggressive coverage to adults who are arrested for selling alcohol to underage youth. These peddlers of doom deserve to be publicly exposed. That’s something we plan to pursue. What will you do? -DR