MOULTRIE — Parents or other significant adults can be the most important people in preventing teenage drug or alcohol abuse, the program director at Turning Point Hospital told the Moultrie Kiwanis Club Thursday.

Maresa McKinney, program director for Turning Point’s outpatient program for women, said adults, especially parents, in a child’s life can help steer them away from drugs and alcohol. She used findings from the book, “How To Raise A Drug-Free Kid” to show how even one person can help steer children and teenagers away from drugs and alcohol.

“I really believe one person can make a difference in alcohol and drug prevention in the life of a child,” McKinney said.

Statistics have shown every child will be offered drugs or alcohol at least once before graduating high school, McKinney said. If a child, however, stays away from drugs and alcohol by the time he or she turns 21, they are more likely to never use them.

Alcohol is the most widely used teenage drug, but McKinney said other drugs are easily abused. Marijuana today is 10 times stronger than when it was used in the 1960s, leading it to be the most underestimated drug used by teenagers.

McKinney said some teenagers abuse prescription drugs that are readily available in a home’s medicine cabinet. These medications are especially dangerous because teenagers believe they are not addictive and are safer to use than “street drugs,” like marijuana or cocaine.

Prescription drugs are also widely abused because the ease in which a teenager can get them, McKinney said. A survey of 12-17 year olds found one-third of those surveyed can get prescription medication within one day, and one in five said they can get them within one hour.

“Availability is the mother of use,” McKinney said.

To help prevent the use of drugs and alcohol by teenagers, McKinney said, the people children and teens look up to need to show them how dangerous drugs and alcohol can be.

“We need to be there and be involved in a child’s life,” McKinney said. “Kids are looking to their parents to walk the walk.”

McKinney said researchers have found at least one thing families can do to lower the risk of drug abuse. Statistics show a child who has a family dinner five or more times a week is less likely to try drugs than one who has two or fewer family meals a week.

To get more information on drug abuse and the impact of a family dinner, McKinney said to visit www.casafamily.org. She praised the Kiwanis Club for their work in being involved in children’s lives and giving them things to do other than drugs and alcohol.

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