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DRUG ADS STAR AREA TEENS CAMPAIGN DESIGNED TO ALERT PARENTS ON STOPPING ABUSE.

Byline: Holly Edwards Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - An athletic teen-age boy appears on the screen and says casually, ``I love sports, I like school and I also like to get high.''

As images of school books and drug paraphernalia are shown, other teens describe how easy it is to buy marijuana and cocaine in the Santa Clarita Valley.

``Besides,'' the teen-age boy concludes as images of a body being placed in a morgue drawer and a jail door slamming are shown, ``what's the worst thing that can happen to us? We fall asleep in class.''

The dramatic segment ends with an entreaty to parents to talk with their children about drugs.

Throughout September, this 30-second advertisement will be broadcast 984 times on 12 cable networks - Lifetime, USA, Discovery, VH1, E!, CNN, Fox Sports West, Comedy Central, FX, TLC, MTV and TV Food.

Though the ad features local teens, it is aimed at forcing parents to confront the dangers of teen drug and alcohol abuse, say members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, a city-appointed drug prevention group.

``It's better to draw awareness to the issue than to say, Not in Santa Clarita, not our kids, not my kids,'' said Stephanie Weiss, a task force member who has dealt with teen drug use in her family. ``As a parent, I'm supposed to be the one guiding my kids. If I don't know about drugs, then I can't do my job.''

Calling tobacco a ``gateway drug,'' the task force obtained a $75,000 county grant aimed at tobacco use prevention to pay for the TV ads, as well as 100 radio ads, 10 newspaper ads and about 50 posters to be placed in public areas.

All of the messages will be aimed at educating parents, who often have a cavalier attitude about teen alcohol and drug use, said Gail Ortiz, Santa Clarita public relations officer.

``Parents say, I know it's wrong to let my teenager drink, but I want to be my child's friend,'' Ortiz said. ``They'll say it's better for their teen-ager to drink at home than out driving around, and I understand that, but it's illegal. And alcohol is absolutely a gateway drug for other drugs.''

A 1998 survey of students in the William S. Hart Union School District showed that the average age students first got drunk was 14.2 years, the average age for first-time marijuana use was 14.5 years, and the average age for first-time inhalant use was 14.1 years.

By the time students graduated from high school, 88 percent had used alcohol, 59 percent had used marijuana, 25 percent had used hallucinogens, and 11 percent had used cocaine.

``Across the board, every single one of the teen-agers in high school and junior high I've talked to say they know exactly where to get drugs at school,'' Ortiz said. ``It's real sad because we have a beautiful valley, but there's an air of permissiveness that permeates the valley when it comes to teen alcohol and drug use.''

Law enforcement officers say teen drug use is widespread in the valley because the average teen here is upper middle class and has money to spend on drugs and alcohol.

They also say that teen drug use has risen along with the popularity of ``rave'' parties, which usually involve large numbers of teens and a variety of illegal drugs.

``Drugs like ecstasy, hallucinogenic mushrooms, methamphetamine, animal tranquilizers are all part of the rave culture,'' said Detective Steve Anderson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. ``We see teens from all backgrounds involved with drugs, and for the most part they have no idea what these drugs can do to them.''

Anderson added that some parents have a permissive attitude toward marijuana because they experimented with the drug when they were younger.

``A lot of parents think, I did marijuana in the '60s and I'm OK,'' Anderson said. ``But they don't realize that the type of marijuana kids are getting their hands on today is seven to eight times stronger than the marijuana available 30 years ago.''

Like members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, Anderson placed responsibility for solving the teen drug problem squarely on parents' shoulders.

``Parents need to get involved with their kids' lives and know what their kids are doing,'' he said. ``Sometimes that means going in their rooms and searching. You can trust your kids, but you should also know what they're up to.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Aug 17, 2000
Words:740
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