COMMENTARY: The fight against substances

By EDUARDO SALINAS, Special to the Star

As we continue to follow stay-at home orders and keeping ourselves, our families, friends and neighbors safe from the recent pandemic that has been sweeping through our nation, it is also crucial that we consider keeping the fight against substances that have taken many lives and continue to do so. Alcohol is one of the most abused substances in our nation and it is not only used by adults, but by our youth as well.

Since the teenage and young adult brain is still developing, consuming alcohol and other substances can cause major developmental issues in the brain. According to a study conducted by Duke University, brain maturation is complete at about 24 years of age. The study goes on to explain that when youth consume alcohol, the substance can interfere with critical cellular events that help form the adult brain. The Texas School Survey data, conducted during the 2017-2018 school year of students in grades 7 through 12, shows us that 1 in 5 adolescents do not think alcohol is dangerous. Data within the same survey also tells us that 48% of students surveyed responded to ever using alcohol. That is almost half of all students surveyed!

In Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) Region 11, according to a report provided by CDC Wonder, between the years of 1999 to 2018, there have been 2,452 reported alcohol induced deaths. We must remember that these are only deaths that have been reported as being correlated to alcohol; many times these instances are not reported for personal, legal or other reasons.

It is imperative to keep in mind that our states’ lockdown can contribute to the risk of our youth being exposed to alcohol and other substances. While parents may not explicitly support the use of alcohol, they may have some in the home. One of the most important tips is to make sure alcohol and others, such as prescription and over the counter medication, are kept in a safe or locked place. Parents should also keep count or measurements of any substances in the home if they suspect they are being abused or misused and simply for the safety of their household.

Through these difficult times and beyond, the Prevention Resource Center (PRC), a program of Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas, serves as the central data collection repository for region 11 and the developer of a yearly Regional Needs Assessment (RNA), which is available to community members at no cost and can be downloaded on our website: www.prc11.org/data. PRC wants to ensure that our communities stay safe throughout whatever the course of the next few weeks and months bring and in the long run.

If you are interested in becoming a part of this data collection project and would like to play a role in the 2020 Regional Needs Assessment process or would like data presentations, webinars and more, please contact Eduardo Salinas, PRC Public Relations Coordinator, at edsalinas@bhsst.org or Karen Rodriguez, PRC Data Coordinator, at krodriguez@bhsst.org

Eduardo Salinas is the public relations coordinator for the Prevention Resource Center 11 at Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas.