By Mike Linn
The number of preteens who have sought counseling for substance abuse through the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation has increased dramatically in the past few years.
Ok...so I am to believe a kid under the age of 12 walked into a drug treatment center and asked to be treated? This would not be legally possible as parents must be the ones who sign permission forms for anyone under the age of 18 to be treated. DUH!
The numbers are relatively small: 18 children between 6 and 12 years old last year received drug counseling compared with five in 2002.
These figures are unusual in that before 2000 it was rare for anyone under 13 to seek substance abuse counseling, according to Kent Hunt, associate commissioner for substance abuse at the state Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.
"For years and years we never had anybody admitted to treatment (in this age group)," he said. "Every once in a while, we'd have a kid who was 13. For us, it's a huge increase percentage-wise for kids ages 6 to 12."
The number of high school age children seeking treatment is also up slightly, from 1,556 in 2002 to 1,587 in 2004, statistics show. But the percentage of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who sought treatment declined by 5 percent.
Juveniles between the ages of 13 and 17 charged with drug offenses increased by about 7 percent from 2000 to 2004.
But Cary McMillan, juvenile technology manager for the Alabama Office of Administrative Courts, said some years there's a spike in drug complaints and other years they dip, so it's not necessarily a trend.
That more youngsters are getting treatment, she said, is likely due to more youth being screened for drug problems in the juvenile court system.
"Even if the youth is not held on drug charges, a screening may show they may have a substance abuse problem. Even if it's not a drug charge, they can send them to drug treatment," she said.
Courtney Green, a junior at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, estimated at least 40 percent of high school students have tried marijuana and about 20 percent drink alcohol on the weekends.
Rachel Wismulek, a freshman at the school, said teens can get drugs relatively easily in Montgomery, and that many high school students have tried drugs like marijuana.
"People behind gas stations will give people our age drugs and stuff like that," she said. "It's really easy to get a hold of certain things. If anybody wanted to try it, they could."
And there you have it folks. Due to prohibition of certain drugs kids have unfettered, unrestricted access to them. Your laws to stop drug use are responsible for this as well as responsible for the prison crisis in Alabama. Maybe it is time to realize that approaching drugs from the point of regulation and harm reduction is not the same as condoning drug use.
If this is about keeping your kids safe then I would have to say your current plan is an abysmal failure. It will be your kids who are the next generation of Alabama inmates unless you do what is necessary to change these laws.