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Rant & Rave

By Amanda Gino

Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Reckless teens
court disaster

Do teens think they are invincible? Or do they just not know the dangers involved in some of the things they do? Adults always seem to be nagging teens about the ill effects of drinking, drug use and unprotected sex, but nothing really bad ever happens to anybody, right? One doesn't have to look far to find risky teen behavior. At the average Kaiser party, it's easy for kids to get alcohol. There is always someone with that cool uncle or cousin who will hook them up. But what most kids either don't realize or refuse to admit, is that irresponsible drinking is dangerous.

I remember telling someone they should always have a designated driver. His response? "Come on, nothing ever happens to anybody." Or best yet: "We have designated drunks."

Drunk driving is behind the majority of teen car accidents, but that isn't the only danger with drinking. Along with permanent liver and brain damage, alcohol poisoning is a risk.

One senior I know tells this story: "I was drinking 'hards' and they hit fast. I, like, passed out, and when I got up I

couldn't function.

"The cops came and my friends and the cops tried to help me ... my pulse was really low, so they took me to the hospital. I don't remember any of this ... They said I would have died within an hour if all the alcohol got to my brain. I was unconscious for long enough to have caused permanent brain damage, but I am really lucky that it didn't."

Sound like a life-changing experience? He was drinking again two nights later.

Next, let's look at teen sexual activity. According to statistics from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, only one in five students leaves high school as a virgin and only two-thirds of sexually active teens use some form of contraceptive. Twenty-five percent of sexually active teens will acquire one or more sexually transmitted diseases. Ten percent of teen girls get pregnant annually.

Only 10 percent doesn't sound too bad; they can always get abortions, right? About half of all teen pregnancies end in abortion, but the incident can leave permanent scars, both physically and emotionally.

It is not easy to get over the fact that one has destroyed a life. Abortions can also affect the girl's ability to have children later in life, yet many teens continue to use coitus interruptus as their contraceptive method. This doesn't stop the sharing of STDs and girls can still get pregnant.

Last but not least of risky teen behavior is drug abuse. When compared to crack, marijuana and methylenedioxymethamphetamine, more commonly known as MDMA ecstasy, are perceived as "harmless" drugs. But both can cause permanent brain damage and depression. THC, the chemical found in marijuana, impairs the smoker. Driving while stoned can be very dangerous as it causes delayed reactions to the environment.

MDMA has an aura of glamour because of its association with night clubs.

What's the big deal? Ecstasy also impairs thinking, but it can have more damaging side effects most teens aren't aware of. It uses up the seratonin (the chemical that makes you happy) in the brain. Later, when the brain needs seratonin and cannot find it, the user becomes depressed. Teens have experienced seizures or died after taking ecstasy. Others have attempted suicide.

I hope reading this has made some reckless teens think twice about your actions. But I'm willing to bet money that come Friday, the majority will still be out drinking, smoking weed, doing ecstasy or having unprotected sex, still believing bad things "won't happen to me." Are we really invincible?

Amanda Gino is a senior
at Kaiser High School.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
allowing those 12 to 22 to serve up fresh perspectives.
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