With as many as 35 percent of Mesa eighth graders admitting to at least trying alcohol, the Mesa Prevention Alliance is planning an event this weekend to show them there’s another lifestyle to choose.
“Live Above the Influence” is a nationwide drug- and alcohol-use prevention theme that the alliance has also adopted for its 4/20 event Saturday at Mesa’s Amazing Jake’s. The first 300 visitors ages 13 to 18 will receive an all-day pass for free. Anyone that age who arrives after the tickets are given away will be offered a discounted $17.99 daylong pass.
This marks the fourth year the Mesa Prevention Alliance has put on a April 20 event to take the day away from the unofficial “holiday” often claimed by marijuana users, the alliance states.
“We don’t want it to look like we’re celebrating 4/20. We want to offer an alternative for that day. How can we get them involved in something that is positive?” said alliance executive director Karen Frias-Long. To that effort, the alliance also invites groups like the Walk a Mile in My Shoes, Safe Home Place and various recreation centers who give youth ideas about where they can get involved.
The problem, she said, is that youth are “inundated” with mixed messages.
“If you have one of hour of education with them, the rest of the day they’re inundated with social media, the news, music, mixed messaging,” she said. “Our youth are starting to take their first sip of alcohol at just under 12 years of age. What we want to do, what we’re trying to do, a lot of it is to educate adults about what’s going on. I think a lot of parents don’t realize how young they’re starting to drink. We look at alcohol as the gateway drug that opens the door to marijuana and the synthetic drugs. We’re just trying to say, 'This is what’s going on; this is what we’re seeing.'"
Every two years, students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades are asked about substance use in the Arizona Youth Survey. According to the most recent one – 2012 – there was a 5 percent drop in the number of eighth graders who said they have used or tried alcohol, from 40 percent to 35 percent.
In fact, across the board, many of the statistics dipped, even a bit, Frias-Long said. But one statistic went up that alarmed her.
More high school seniors said they receive alcohol from the adults they know, she said.
“That went up almost 5 percent from 2010 to 2012. This is what the youth are telling us. That increase is with adults, family members, giving them alcohol,” she said.
She believes there is a belief by parents that “kids are going to drink anyway” and they fear drinking and driving so they think, “I’d rather them drink at home as opposed to being out drinking. Of course our biggest fear is for them to be in an accident or hurt someone else.”
“The problem is you’re giving them the green light to drink and they’re doing it elsewhere. … There you go again with the mixed messaging. You tell them not to do it, but then it’s OK to do it in the home,” she said.
Saturday's event will be held 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Amazing Jakes, 1830 E. Baseline Road, Mesa. The first 300 youth ages 13 to 18 will be admitted free; a discounted full-day pass will be available the rest of the day to youth that age for $17.99.
Parents with questions or concerns can reach the alliance at (480) 768-6036 or mesapreventionalliance.org.
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