Underage Substance Abuse Discussed at Irvington High Forum

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by Neal Rentz

party-1173651_640What are the potential consequences of underage drug and alcohol use?

According to a panel of local experts, the consequences include potential addiction, criminal prosecution of both youths and parents and even death.

About 75 local residents came to Irvington High School on May 19 to listen to a roughly 80-minute discussion on the consequences of underage drinking and drug use that was sponsored by iASK-CAB.

The panel consisted of Dr. Emil Nigro, the emergency room medical director of Phelps Memorial Hospital; Det. Mike Toolan from the Irvington Police Department; Irvington High School Principal David Cohen and Village of Irvington Justice Des Lyons. The moderator of the program was Student Assistance Services Executive Director Ellen Morehouse.

Morehouse provided the panel three fictional scenarios that involved drug and alcohol use by youths. The first scenario involved a teen party held at a house where the parents are gone for the evening. Alcohol is being served at the party even though the mother did not approve it. One of the girls at the party is unconscious after drinking alcohol.

Toolan said if the police found out there was underage drinking at a party the parents could be charged with allowing the use of alcohol by minors even if they did not personally serve the drinks and were not present at the party. Lyons said the parents could face civil penalties with fines if there was alcohol use at their home.

Toolan said if requested by parents, the local police could have a car patrol the home on occasions at night when the parents are not present to assure nothing improper is taking place.

Nigro said the girl who passed out in the party scenario could have been in medical danger. “Alcohol poisoning is life threatening,” he said. A girl in the situation as posed in the party scenario should be taken to a hospital emergency room for treatment, he said.

Toolan said the “good Simaritan law” would legally protect anyone who sought medical or other emergency assistance if they felt another person was in danger after consuming alcohol and/or drugs. “If you call 911 to save a life you can’t be prosecuted,” Morehouse said.

A person mixing alcohol and drugs is in potential danger, Nigro said. “It’s a prescription for disaster,” he said, adding that by doing so a person’s nervous system can be negatively affected.

Parents should put their prescription drugs out of reach when people other than family members come to their homes, Nigro said. Many youths obtain the prescription drugs they abuse from homes, he said.

Cohen said if high school staff suspect a student is using alcohol or drugs the situation would be investigated at the school. “Our first concern is the health and safety and well-being of our students,” he said. School staff, including the school’s student assistance counselor, would seek facts from a student suspected of using drugs and alcohol, he said. If needed, the high school would contact parents, Cohen said.

The second fictional scenario presented by Morehouse was about drinking and drug use in a limousine hired by students following a high school prom. Toolan said if police found out that even if only one person possessed illegal drugs in the limo all the passengers and the drive could face criminal drug charges.

Cohen said a safe prom night is a priority for his school. The school requires students who attend the prom to not drive to the campus, but instead be dropped off by their parents.

Beginning in 2015, a pre-prom event which allows parents to take photos of their children in prom attire has been held prior to the start of the party, which runs from 7 to 11 p.m., Cohen said. The school has had the support of local police officers at the event, he said.

Though school officials cannot control students after they leave the prom, safety is stressed by high school officials through communications with students prior to the event, Cohen said. Drinking alcohol after the proms is not a “rite of passage,” he said.

Morehouse’s third fictional scenario was about a high school student who was taking a pain killing prescription drug following surgery who was distributing those pills to her friends for recreational use. Nigro said prescription pain killers are often abused by youths. Prescription drugs can be a “gateway” that can lead to heroin use because an addict is seeking something to get a more intense high, he said.

Morehouse ended the program by telling parents they should have a “no use message” for their children regarding alcohol and drugs.


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