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Local forum to provide unique view of teen drug addiction

Information is what parents need to prevent their children from falling into drug or alcohol addiction.

They will have a unique opportunity to get this information on Tuesday, May 13, at the Drug Addiction Forum at Lake Oswego United Methodist Church at 7 p.m.

'Parents who come are going to hear about addiction from four really good perspectives,' said Dr. Marv Seppala, who will be one of the main presenters. 'There's the district attorney of Clackamas County (John Foote), Judy Cushing (president and CEO of Oregon Partnership) on prevention, myself on traits of addiction, and two high school students, who will take us right into the drug scene.

'This will really help parents understand the depth of this problem.'

As valuable, even vital, as this information can be, Seppala noted that parents often resist getting it out of complacency or fear. Until they have a real problem on their hands.

'It's easy to ignore it,' Seppala said. 'Then you read about something like the student at Reed College dying from an overdose of heroin.

'A forum like this allows us to get the word out about addiction again. I work in this field and it's a constant battle. There are constant tragedies.'

Seppala pointed out statistics indicating that Oregon youth are among those most prone to become addicted.

'There is a high rate of drug abuse by adolescents and young adults in this state,' he said. 'In drug use we're in the top 10. In alcohol abuse we're in the top five.

'Now, young girls between 12 and 15 are drinking even more than their male counterparts. That is scary, because the younger the teen who uses alcohol, the more chance of dependence later in life. That means more alcoholics and more of the medical problems associated with them.'

A long-time professional in his field, Seppala is constantly encountering new outcroppings of drug addiction; some of them quite surprising, such as the rapid rise in the use of painkillers.

'Heroin used to be the number one killer in Oregon,' Seppala said. 'Now it's methadone. Not the liquid kind used in clinics, but the tablet form. There was a case of a 13-year-old kid in Minnesota taking a methadone pill at a party one night. He was dead the next morning.'

Seppala has encountered some pretty strange cases himself.

'There was a guy from the suburbs who was a high school football player,' he said. 'He took Vicodin for an injury. He liked it.'

Soon that player and some of his football teammates became a group of Vicodin addicts, and only recently, coming in one by one, have they sought treatment.

'They were a group of guys in their 20s who have never accomplished anything,' Seppala said. 'All of them were on the same football team. They had a lot of potential.'

But the most harrowing case for Seppala came when a former friend of his son came up before the court, accused of armed robbery. He had become a methamphetimine addict.

'That kid was no different from my son,' Seppala said. 'It scares me. It probably all started with just a simple decision.'

When the flames of substance abuse can come so close to even someone like Seppala, it is time for every parent to take notice.

'There is plenty of this going on, and parents are often ignorant about it,' he said. 'It is said that parents are two years behind in what their kids are doing in drugs and alcohol. If you are aware of this, you'll be in a lot better position to prevent your child from doing drugs. And if your kid does do drugs, you'll be able to make better decisions on what to do.'

For Seppala, as well as event organizer Linda Woods, director of activities at United Methodist Church, the forum is something that is much needed here.

'We've been hoping to do something like this for a long time,' he said. 'The opportunity finally presented itself. For parents, something like this should occur on a regular basis.'

Woods said, 'We wanted to present this in the best way not only to inform our congregation but the general public about this important societal problem.

'Because both Judy Cushing and John Foote are members of our congregation, we had a good start on this. After getting their enthusiastic support, we were off and running.'

Lake Oswego United Methodist Church is located at 1855 South Shore Blvd., next to the National Guard Armory.

For more information, call the church at 503-636-8423.