BETHEL — “Your brain, right now, is at its best for learning,” addiction-prevention specialist Lee Anne Dodge told Telstar Regional High School students at an assembly Thursday.

The assembly, sponsored by River Valley Healthy Communities in partnership with the Mahoosuc Prevention Coalition, was aimed at educating students about the consequences of underage drinking and drug abuse, and empowering them to make good decisions and feel in control of their actions.

“We want young folks to think about the long- and short-term impact of marijuana and alcohol, what to do as a bystander, what impairment looks like, and how to lower their risk,” Dodge said.

Dodge told students that alcohol can reach the brain in 30 seconds. She quelled skepticism by reminding students how fast a brain freeze can occur when drinking a cold beverage — about 30 seconds.

“The first thing affected is your judgment, reasoning, caution and intelligence,” Dodge said. “Then as the alcohol moves from your pre-frontal cortex toward the back of your brain; it affects your self-control and your memory. Lastly, it cripples the five senses. It acts as an anesthetic.” 

Dodge is a certified prevention specialist — a professional who uses a specialized set of knowledge, experience, training and skills to encourage healthy attitudes and behaviors which prevent the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. She also counsels people struggling with addiction.

Dodge outlined the physical symptoms of an alcohol overdose.

“An overdose will shut down the heart, lungs and nervous system. Blood will get closer to the surface of your skin, which cools the body down,” she said. “Why is that dangerous especially in Maine?”

“Because it’s already cold,” the students shouted in response.

Dodge encouraged students to take action if a peer is in danger. She told students not to “be a zebra,” referring to the animal’s behavior of huddling together and watching as one of their own is eaten by a lion.

“The bigger the group (you’re in), the less likely someone is to do something,” Dodge said.  

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