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Alcohol: Middle school usage deserves study

Research a West Virginia University associate professor is conducting may not seem important at first glance — but it is.

WVU researcher Alfgeir Kristjansson is investigating use of alcohol by middle school students. He and his team will be looking into how frequently about 2,000 West Virginia students in grades 6-8 use alcohol and other drugs. Their focus is what situations make it more likely that the children will use alcohol or other drugs.

Your initial reaction to that may be that there is little reason to worry about children that young using alcohol or other drugs.

Think again. A nationwide study, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance project, monitors various types of hazarous behavior by juveniles. In 2017, nearly one-fourth of the middle school students in surveyed in West Virginia admitted to having drunk alcohol at least once.

But we don’t need bit studies to tell us that, if we are honest with ourselves. Earlier this month, a local forum on the West Virginia Substance Use Response Plan included plenty of comment from folks who understand prevention needs to being MUCH earlier that our current focus. By the time we get to kids now, it is too late.

“Back in my childhood it was ‘I took this from my dad’s liquor cabinet’. Today it’s ‘I took this from my parents drug stash’,” said Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens.

A man participating in the Recovery Point program backed him up. “I started using at 10-11 years old, because my friends had some,” the man said.

Kristjansson’s study is imporant. It should help parents learn when children are most susceptible to abusing alcohol or other drugs — and prevent the problem.

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