This Saturday, Santa Monica parents are invited to take part in an event intended to educate about the current realities of underage drinking and drug use at teen parties. The #ItsTooEasy Reality Party will offer parents a tour of a mock teen house party, where student volunteers act out realistic scenes, including drinking games, common peer pressure situations and other drinking and drug use trends. The event is hosted by CLARE Foundation, the Westside Impact Project and Straight Up Reality Improv, in conjunction with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Police Department. According to organizers, the event is meant to help promote social change in Santa Monica regarding underage binge drinking, marijuana use, impaired driving and prescription drug misuse.

“In my experience, people aren’t aware about the amount of exposure and peer pressure youth experience when it comes to drugs and alcohol,” Brenda Simmons, Director of the Westside Impact Project, which is a county-funded effort to reduce alcohol-related problems in Santa Monica. “The goal of the #ItsTooEasy Reality Party is to create an opportunity for parents, administrators and community leaders to come together to discuss how we can better protect our youth from the misuse and abuse of drugs and alcohol.”

At the Reality Party, students from Santa Monica High School will depict scripted yet realistic scenes of overindulgent drinking games, the relentless peer pressure to binge drink and the availability and accessibility of popular drugs. Following the mock “party”, tour participants will attend a debriefing session with a panel of parents, youth, educational administrators, and mental health professionals to discuss what they observed and to review possible strategies for creating change around underage drinking and drug use.

Officials from SMMUSD and the Santa Monica Police Department say they joined in hosting the #ItsTooEasy Reality Party because they wanted to contribute to a cohesive community solution.

“We’re glad the Reality Party will provide a forum for our community to discuss underage drinking and drug use, which are one of the big challenges parents can face,” said Santa Monica Police Department Sgt. Saul Rodriguez, who will participate on the Reality Party’s panel to share his perspective. “It’s a community problem that requires a community solution.”

Recent data indicates Santa Monica students report considerable alcohol and marijuana use. The 2014 California Health Kids Survey, which monitors drug and alcohol consumption among 5 – 12 graders across the state, found that 50 percent of SMMUSD juniors report alcohol is “very easy” to get, 40 percent report having at least one full drink in the last 30 days, and 26 percent report at least one episode of binge drinking (5 or more drinks in one session) in the last 30 days. Thirty-nine percent of juniors report they’ve smoked marijuana four or more times in their lifetime.

Teen substance use is not just a local issue. A recent study conducted by the Office of Adolescent Health found that in the previous month, 39 percent of high school seniors nationwide reported drinking some alcohol, almost 23 percent reported using marijuana, and 16 percent reported smoking cigarettes.

According to CLARE Foundation, prevention strategies like Reality Parties are becoming more prevalent in raising awareness about the high rates of underage drinking and drug use, and in creating cultural shifts that make underage substance use less acceptable and less probable.

“In my opinion, prevention is our first line of defense in this fight against substance abuse and alcoholism,” said Nicholas Vrataric, Executive Director of CLARE Foundation. “The more we can work together to inform parents, educators and the community about the realities of teenage drug and alcohol abuse, the more we can empower teens to make healthy life choices.”

“We value the partnership between the City of Santa Monica, Santa Monica Police Department and the organizations involved in working together to address this issue facing our youth,” Gail Pinkser, SMMUSD spokeswoman said. “SMMUSD, along with our partners, is interested in expanding drug and alcohol education and prevention programs for our parents and students.”

The #ItsTooEasy Reality Party is scheduled to take place Saturday, April 25 from 2 – 7 p.m. in Santa Monica. For more information about the event, or to register for a tour, please visit www.WestsideImpactProject.org/realityparty. The event’s location will be provided at the time of registration.

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