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Alcohol screening can help prevent more tragedies

Kathy Mitchell Marcy Sugar Creators Syndicate

Dear Annie: I am writing in hopes of saving others from the tragedy that befell my son, Jonathan, and our family. Jon was a sophomore in college. Following an alcohol-related incident the last week of his freshman year, we pulled Jon from school. He worked hard that summer at two jobs to pay for the consequences of his misbehavior and tested clean for alcohol and drugs at the end of summer. Jon returned to school in August, re-energized and intent on doing well.

I spoke to him two nights before Halloween. He had finished his midterms, was participating in athletics, and working hard toward a business degree so he could join me in the company I had recently purchased. Because he had lost his driving privileges, I cautioned him about riding with anyone who had been drinking. He replied, “Trust me, Dad, I know better.”

On Halloween, Jon and his friends attended a party. Jon took a ride with a student he hardly knew, who was incredibly drunk. The driver lost control at high speed and crashed head-on into a car driven by a professor at Jon’s school.

The drunk student driver, the professor and Jon all were instantly killed. A friend of Jon’s who was in the back seat survived, but suffered broken bones and internal injuries, lost part of his foot and an eye, and sustained serious brain injuries. His dreams and aspirations are gone forever.

A few weeks following the crash, Jon’s best friend took his own life. Another close friend of Jon’s dropped out of school, blaming herself for allowing Jon to get into the car with the drunk driver. Two other friends suffered serious depression. Our family will never be the same.

We must prevent what happened to Jon from happening to others. That is why I’d like everyone to know about National Alcohol Screening Day on April 7. Facilities across the country are offering free screenings for those with alcohol problems, and education about alcohol, health and safety. I urge anyone who drinks to take advantage of this program. Your readers can find a screening site by visiting NationalAlcoholScreeningDay.org or calling (800) 697-6700.

Please participate in this event and help avoid the tragic consequences suffered by my son. – Jeff Levy, President, Virginia College Parents, Virginia Public Policy Liaison, Mothers Against Drunk Driving; National Spokesperson, International Institute for Alcohol Awareness

Dear Jeff Levy: Our hearts go out to you. We appreciate your giving us the opportunity to once again mention National Alcohol Screening Day on April 7. Alcohol-related crashes account for 41 percent of all fatal car accidents. Fourteen hundred college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes. More than 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted each year by another student who has been drinking.

Women are more vulnerable than men. Adolescent girls who consume even moderate amounts of alcohol may experience disrupted growth and puberty. Heavy drinking in adult women can disrupt normal menstrual cycling and reproductive functions. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can cause women to suffer from infertility, increased risk for spontaneous abortion, and impaired fetal growth and development. Older drinkers are not exempt. Heavy alcohol consumption may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease in both genders, and in women in particular.

Please, dear readers, if you or anyone you know may have an alcohol problem, call for a confidential screening. The lines are open now.

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