By Kate Anslinger
The high school auditorium and gymnasium were filled with students wearing red, showing off their support for Alcohol Awareness month. As part of Wellness Week, a panel of guest speakers was front and center, ready to answer any questions that students had regarding substance misuse and to identify influences in everyday life that impact choices.
Speakers included School Nurse Meredith Hurley; CASA Administrator LeighAnn Eruzione Callinan; CASA Recovery Coach Chip McHugh; CASA Coalition Director Amy Epstein and North Suffolk Mental Health Program Coordinator Nicole Ubaldi.
There was no shortage of questions from the students and they ranged anywhere from why certain teens get hooked on substances to whether people can die from marijuana usage.
The general consensus from the panel was that most addiction starts with one drug and escalates from there, once the addict gets bored of the side effects and builds up a tolerance. Several students questioned whether or not marijuana was an addictive drug and doubted its harmful side effects.
“The brain develops until you are 25,” explained Hurley. “When marijuana is in your body it attaches to the fat cells, which is why it takes so long to get out of your system. Your brain cells wrap themselves in these fat cells in an attempt to keep them safe, however; if you use marijuana, the active ingredients in the drug end up attaching to the neurons in your brain, which in turn impacts how your brain develops.”
The panel also emphasized that it’s what happens while you are under the influence of drugs. Drug and alcohol abuse causes a mind-altering state that leads to poor choices involving impaired driving, risky sexual behavior, consent issues and effects on the lungs.
“Everyone’s brain and chemistry is different,” said Ubaldi, who works one on one with adolescents that suffer from addiction.