Darts and laurels

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2006

Laurels to a decrease in alcohol and illegal drug use among teenagers. An annual study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found slight decreases in booze and illegal drug use among eighth, 10th and 12 graders, but the news came with a strong cautionary note. More teens are getting high on legal painkillers and mood stimulants like OxyContin, Vicodin and Ritalin — or even common cold medications. The overall number of teens who reported abusing such medications is still relatively small, but it’s an unhealthy trend that parents and others shouldn’t ignore. While researchers can’t say with authority what’s driving the interest in prescription highs, you have to wonder whether the onslaught of TV and magazine ads advising consumers to “ask your doctor whether this pill is right for you” isn’t having a subliminal impact. When a plethora of advertisements makes it seem like there’s a pill for every malady or bad mood, we shouldn’t be surprised that youngsters are furtively sampling the medicine chest.

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Dart to the holiday travel disruptions brought on by a fierce winter storm that rolled across the Rockies, dumping more than 2 feet on snow on Denver and causing massive airline delays that rippled around the country this week. At the height of the storm, thousands of domestic flights were canceled, and almost 5,000 people were stranded at Denver International Airport. If you think a long flight squeezed tight in tourist class is uncomfortable, try spending a night or two in a terminal imprisoned with thousands of other tense, sleep-deprived passengers. Meanwhile, international air traffic took a hit when fog socked in London’s Heathrow Airport late in the week. Moral of the story: A white Christmas may be great if you’re already home for the holidays, but it’s no fun for those on the road or in the air.

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Laurels to those who take to heart the notion that it’s more blessed to give than to receive during this holiday season. You don’t have to look far to find examples in this community. For those of us at the newspaper, example No. 1 has to be the Christmas Happiness Fund. After a slow start, the fund once again met its goal of providing vouchers for all the needy families who applied through the Department of Social Services. At Faith Elementary, students collected hundreds of toys to distribute through the Toys for Tots program. And in another seasonal ritual, dozens of delighted Salisbury youngsters received donated bicycles for Christmas through the Salisbury Police Department and auto dealer Gerry Wood. The list could go on and on. This is the season when generosity and helping hands may receive the most attention, but we’re fortunate to be part of a community where such acts occur throughout the year.