Recent findings show alcohol, drug abuse

Wanda English Burnett

One of the best holidays can turn quickly into one of the worst memories when teens and alcohol mix.

Paula Goodpaster coordinator for the Ripley County Local Coordinating Council Against Substance Abuse (LCC), has concerns about the use of alcohol and other drugs among youth in the county. Her concerns have merit based on the latest statistics released through the 2009 Local Epidemiological Profile.

This study, a collaborative effort of the Batesville Community School Corporation, Stayin’ Alive (Franklin County LCC) and the Ripley County LCC, reports a startling number of high school students have already been active with drugs and alcohol.

In one high school, 75% of the 338 students who responded to the survey said they had been to a party where alcohol was involved. More than half reported they had been drunk, and 14% said they drink alcoholic beverages on a regular basis.

Another stark reminder that alcohol is prevalent is the 15% of students who said they have actually driven a vehicle after consuming alcohol and more than half said they have gotten into a vehicle with someone who had been drinking.

Junior high students are not exempt. More than half of those surveyed at this particular high school said they have been to a party where alcohol was served.

Teens aren’t the underlying problem, according to Goodpaster. They have to get the illegal substances from somewhere. She noted that often times parents host parties for their teens so they will know where they are and that they are safe. The ironic twist is that some parents do not actively supervise the parties and some even purchase alcohol thinking ‘it’s better for them to be at home than out somewhere else drinking.'

“We want to get the message out that it is completely illegal for parents to host parties where they’re serving alcohol to minors,” Goodpaster noted. “I don’t say that, just on behalf of Ripley County LCC. I say that as a parent and grandparent.” She continued by saying the health and safety risks are huge for underage drinking. “That’s why it’s against the law. There are parents who think it’s okay for teenagers to drink at home, but that’s not the case.”

Goodpaster has a passion for helping to keep teens safe. “It’s my heart,” she confided to The Versailles Republican in a recent interview. She said it’s close to her because she has experienced the effects illegal substances can have on a family through a member of her own family who she loves very much. “It affects the whole family,” she noted.

Referring to studies that show alcohol consumption in adolescents results in brain damage - sometimes permanent - and impairs intellectual development, Goodpaster says not wanting teens to be involved with alcohol goes even beyond the fact it is against the law. “It harms them more than they realize,” she noted. Research shows that if someone doesn’t drink alcohol until they are 21 years of age, the risk of serious alcohol problems is decreased by 70%.

Goodpaster takes her job as the coordinator of Ripley County LCC seriously. The mission statement says in part the group is to “promote local efforts to prevent or reduce the effects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs among citizens of Ripley County.” Part of that effort is done through identifying the problem in the first place. That’s what the latest study does. It gives the LCC a tool to use and a place to start. The group will also address these concerns through prevention/education, intervention/treatment, and criminal justice/law enforcement strategies.

LCC is working aggressively with other agencies to fulfill their mission. “We don’t just want it to be a statement on paper,” Goodpaster noted. “We want to put legs to it.” And they are. The group is working diligently to make a difference in the lives of the next generation of Ripley County residents. They have sponsored Youth Worker Cafes, have a booth at the 4-H fair where they distribute information, and most recently served as the Ripley County Local Advisory Council for the SPF-SIG project conducted with Ripley and Franklin counties, to name a few of the projects.

The group will continue to push forward to bring awareness of not only alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, but another concern is over-the-counter drug misuse.

The LCC hopes to partner with other entities to make Ripley County the safest it can be for our youth. They encourage parents and other adults to model responsible behavior and join with the group to help lower the underage drinking problem in the county.

“Have a safe and fun summer, and let children and adolescents know that parties and celebrations can be fun and eventful without alcohol,” she concluded.

Meetings of the Ripley County LCC are held the third Thursday of each month at the Ripley County Purdue Extension Office in Osgood. For more information about this group you can call 812-212-8406 or email: The next meeting is set for August 20.