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May 18. 2014 8:55PM

Nashua to combat substance abuse with knowledge at forum

NASHUA — With about 40 heroin overdoses in the Gate City so far this year, efforts are being made to curb the drug and alcohol problem facing Nashua youth.

“Unfortunately, hardly a day goes by when we are not reading or hearing about the drug epidemic facing our community,” Monica Gallant, coordinator of the Nashua Prevention Coalition, said in a statement.

Teens are not only being pressured by narcotic drugs and prescription drugs, but alcohol as well, according to Gallant, who said New Hampshire has the highest rate in the country for underage binge drinking by youth.

With help from a $1.2 million Drug Free Communities federal grant, the Nashua Prevention Coalition is recruiting new members and planning at least two projects to help with its mission of increasing awareness, education and community involvement in substance abuse prevention and reduction for children and teens.

The first gathering is a forum titled, “Let’s Talk: Keeping Our Kids Safe from Drugs and Alcohol,” which will be held on Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center.

Wednesday’s event is designed to help parents, grandparents and community members understand how to prevent underage drinking and youth prescription drug misuse, while also learning how to hold critical conversations that help children to make healthy choices and deal with peer pressure.

“Communication, choices and consequences are all effective strategies for building strong relationships with children,” said Gallant.

A question and answer panel will take place, along with information from a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, a parent advocate, school resource officer and keynote speaker Andrew Watt, an emergency department doctor.

Watt will present typical youth substance abuse scenarios seen in local hospital emergency rooms.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, 44 percent of high school students in New Hampshire reported using marijuana at least once, while 38 percent of high school students admit to having at least one drink of alcohol in the past month.

The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 37 percent of Nashua high school students surveyed reported having at least one drink of alcohol or more in the past 30 days, and nearly 40 percent saw no harm in using prescriptions drugs without a prescription, while 64 percent saw no harm in binge drinking, according to the release.

“Although the drugs change over time, alcohol is still the most widely used substance among teens in Nashua, followed by marijuana, tobacco and another dangerous trend — the non-medical use of prescription drugs,” says the release, adding other substances such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts will be addressed.

Registration is required and space is limited. To register for the forum, call 577-2255, or visit www.snhhs.org/classes.

khoughton@newstote.com


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