Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS

In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.

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Local Area “Incubator” of Teen Alcohol & Drug Use?

Mamaroneck and Larchmont can be considered a virtual breeding ground for youthful alcohol and drug abuse based on two addiction markers, the Local Summit learned at its meeting June 16th.

The two community risk markers are a high level of disposable income and modest parental supervision, said Janet Buchbinder, president of RADAR (Responsible Action: A Drug and Alcohol Resource) and Evan Stern, a Hommocks school counselor and RADAR board member.

The two speakers went on to verify the relevance of the addiction markers in Larchmont and Mamaroneck by citing results of a survey conducted last year of 1028 Mamaroneck School District students in the 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades.

Janet Buchbinder, president of RADAR.

Janet Buchbinder, president of RADAR. Photos by John Gitlitz

Evan Stern, RADAR board member

Evan Stern, RADAR board member and counselor at the Hommocks.

Survey Yields Striking Results

Among the findings were:

  • Twelfth-grade alcohol use has  increased steadily since 2002. Last year, 80.2% of high school seniors reported regular alcohol use, which exceeded the national rate by 82%.
  • Some 24% of those surveyed reported binge drinking (five or more drinks within a few hours). The most binge drinkers were 10th and 12th graders; 44% and 55.2% respectively had binged in the two weeks prior to the survey.
  • Rates for seniors who at some time attended school drunk or high rose to 42.2% last year from 29.5% in 2006.
  • The use of marijuana has increased across all grades from 2002 to 2008; among seniors it was up more than 100%, with 48.5% reporting using the drug at least once a month.
  • Marijuana was fairly easy to get, said 53% of all surveyed: 64% said alcohol was too.

[ For additional data on the 2002 and 2006 surveys, see: Alcohol and Drug Use Rises Among MHS Students (2006)  and Mamaroneck Teen Drinking Way Above Average (2002) ]

Alarm Voiced

The speakers said that certain modest progress had been made, most notably a reduction in alcohol use in the 6th and 8th grades.

That said, Bruce Schearer. a Summit board member and professional advisor to non-profits, interrupted the statistical presentation to ask whether the speakers were alarmed over what they were reciting.

“Yes, we are alarmed,” Ms. Buchbinder responded. Her alarm was intensified, she said, by the knowledge that the local statistics are not that different from other high-income communities in Westchester and nearby Connecticut.

For progress to be made, adults in all these community have to change their attitudes, she said.”This is more than a drink and drive problem.” It is a question of parental attitudes and what is allowed to happen at home, both when parents are present and when they are not. Mr. Stern noted, as an aside, that statistics show that tolerating early drinking at home does not condition youth to drink moderately as adults.

Parents Should Be Parents

Mamaroneck High School counselor Keith Yizar, an audience member, said that one of the problems is that many local parents “want to be friends rather than parents. Kids say, ‘You did it, I can do it.’ ” For example, a 14-year old reported to her counselor that she had told her parents that she used marijuana now and then, “but it isn’t affecting my grades. They said it was ok.”

According to the speakers, national research shows one of the the highest risk periods for youthful alcohol and narcotics abuse was from 3-6 pm, when school is over and working parents have not yet returned home.

Healthy Youth Activity Needed

Ms. Buchbinder mentioned that RADAR had piloted an afternoon youth social event in the new MHS cafeteria. There were ping pong tables, music for dancing, food and soft drinks.  A local skateboard store brought in ramps and slides and extra skateboards. “The kids loved it,” she said. (See:  New Teen Cafe Offers Zumba, Food and Boarding)

And why can’t a canteen of this kind be continued, she was asked. “It will be continued,” she answered. “Nine of these ‘After School at the Café’ events will be held in the next school year.”

The schools can’t solve the problem alone, nor can the police nor even the parents, emphasized Mr. Stern. “It has to be a cohesive effort by the whole community.” Two good steps in that direction, he said, are the local Community Task Force on Teen Issues and the Youth Advisory Council, both formed last autumn.

Ernie Odierna, a trustee in Mamaroneck Town,  said the community shouldn’t lose sight of engaging “local grandparent power.” Larchmont Trustee Anne McAndrews suggested more emphasis on youth community service, possibly as a school effort. “Of course, it has to be the kids’ idea, but it will make them feel better about themselves,” she said.

The Local Summit, which hosted the meeting, is an informal community council that seeks to make the community a better place to live for everyone. Its regular monthly meetings will reconvene in September at 7:45 a.m., on the third Tuesday of the month at the Nautilus Diner.

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6 comments to Local Area “Incubator” of Teen Alcohol & Drug Use?

  • MTS

    The questions nobody seems prepared to answer:
    How do you explain this desire to escape “reality” by young teenagers who don’t even have a concept of what REALITY is?
    Most adults reading this know that living the life today of a teenager in one of the wealthiest of towns in this country, with every possible need at their fingertips happily provided for by Mom and Dad, is hardly a “reality” that one needs to escape from. Yet the facts prove otherwise. There is serious alcohol and drug use taking place right here with these same kids who “have everything”. So…what’s to escape from?
    Could there possibly be an inner void that no amount of money, gadgets,vacations,cars and everything else they already have in abundance is failing to fill up?
    Looking for answers to an “inside job” outside in the world of statistics, manipulation of public parks and teen centers to help these children pass the time, are the same old solutions that have failed for a generation.
    What are the principles they are learning at their parents feet? Which core attitudes and guidelines to successful living are they seeing day in and day out at home? Dare we even mention the word God or Spiritual Direction in regards to this serious situation? Or are we just too darn sophisticated to think that it might have any bearing at all on this entire dilemma?
    Do we have to wait to apply the time tested 12 Step spiritual programs at the end of this story for many kids, or is there possibly a way to front-load it now and avoid the pain and tragedy awaiting those not strong enough to weather this storm?
    I can tell you from experience, skate board parks and teen centers are not the answer.

  • LAM

    I’d like to know what parts of the country are reporting the lowest alcohol and drug usage/abuse. Maybe we could learn something from them.

    Am guessing that probably the whole open campus idea at the HS isn’t helping matters. 42% of Seniors reporting to school drunk or high? I doubt that they’re drinking beer with their Cheerios in the morning at home or downing a few in the rush to get to school on time. Sounds to me like they’re drinking outside at lunch or during their free period.

  • CAR

    In response to MTS – the book “The Price of Privilege” written by Madeline Levine suggests that children today are not held responsible for their actions … parents are too eager to assist and do not allow their kids to fail or make mistakes. These kids have a “void” as you suggested .. Its a good read ….. and eye opening.

  • Eleanor Sherman

    Gosh, this is really upsetting news. I suspect that these children are seeing this behavior at home. When times are tough, how do their parents cope??? Is it with alcohol and drugs? I have had friends tell me that their children drink alcohol at home “responsibly,” and one friend told me that her husband drove her child to a party where there was known “pot.” When I showed disapproval…she said to me that “all kids are doing it” and asked “didn’t you?” This is a community of “entitled kids.” I feel sorry for them. Life is tough, and these children are lacking coping skills and are showing signs of “mental pain.” They don’t need another toy, or place to gather. They need some good parenting and mentors to show them how to get through hard times, set structure and limits for them. If these kids are really numbing themselves with alcohol and drugs, let’s get down and find out “why.”

  • Anon E Mous

    Responsibility and privilege – A call to action.

    C. Everett Koop said that ‘Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than raising of the next generation.’ Unfortunately, wealth is sometimes inversely proportional to responsibility. We’re learning a hard lesson and hopefully as a community and as a nation we won’t learn it too late.

  • MHS Alum

    As someone who went through Hommocks and MHS and saw this evolve as we went through the system, the real probem comes down to dollars and cents. Alcohol and pot cost money, and so where is the money coming from? Parents. Larchmont kids don’t have jobs, and it’s all about money handed out by the parents to the kids. The parents give them the money, they can go buy the contraband (it’s so easy to buy this stuff in lmont/new rochelle, and the cops don’t give a care at all as the have bigger fish to fry.)

    Also, dances and things of that nature (cove, coast) just encourage kids to drink more and pregame.

    To fix things – parents need to be more aware of where the money they give their kids is going. Simple as that. This is the only solution.