Underage drinking linked to opioid and heroin use

Early access to alcohol is linked to wider substance abuse behaviors, said the author of the Drug Free Communities grant that brought funding to the Mountain Communities to create intervention programs for teens.

“I think the one thing we need to remember is that underage drinking contributes greatly to substance abuse of all kinds, including heroin use,” Anne Weber Burnaugh said this week in response to the overdose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. She is the director of the Family Resource Center in Frazier Park.

“People don’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I think I’ll try heroin.’ There is a beginning to every substance abuse story and statistics tell us it is underage drinking,” Weber said.

It has been reported often that Hoffman had a serious alcohol dependency before age 22. Studies circulated by McCASA (Mountain Communities Coalition Against Substance Abuse) report that youth who begin using alcohol before age 20 may show developmental brain changes that lead toward an inclination to addiction as adults.

“Our community needs to come to grips with that issue or there will be no changes in our future regarding heroin users. Prevention strategies must address the underlying factors driving the problem of heroin use in our communities,” Weber said. —PH

This is part of the February 7, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.