America gets good, bad news about teens

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 30, 2001

So, do you want the good news first, or the bad news? The good news:

A study proves that teens are drinking and driving less – considerably less often – in states with laws designed to discourage dangerous driving.

In fact, according to the results reported in the American Journal of Public Health, in states which have imposed stricter blood-alcohol limits for young people, teen drinking and driving has dropped by as much as one-fifth.

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It seems the message – that drinking and driving is dangerous, even deadly – is getting through to young people.

Now, the bad news:

Just last week another survey, this one conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, revealed what has been called &uot;surge&uot; in Ecstasy use among American teens. The illegal drug, also known as MDMA, has been labeled the LSD for the new generation. It is accessible, affordable and increasingly popular. But the reality is that the drug is incredibly dangerous, and teenagers are dying across the country when they use it.

It seems we are taking one one step forward and two steps backwards. But it is important to recognize that step forward and to analyze what has worked in getting that simple message – don’t drink and drive – out to teenagers.

Perhaps a critical first step comes in recognizing the problem and being willing to discuss it publicly. Illegal drug uses – whether it’s marijuana or crack or Ecstasy – won’t go away if we simply ignore it. We must talk about it, we must educate our youngsters against it, and we must continue to trudge forward on our path.