Safety First

In the basements with friends or the houses where parties are held, it is known that underage adults, or even minors, partake in illicit activities, such as drinking or drug consumption. In fact, according to the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey, 12 percent of freshmen and 23 percent of sophomores at Libertyville High School reported that they had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days of taking the survey.

This statistic increases when observing the juniors and seniors, who had reported rates of 33 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

Adults and adolescents alike know that such activities occur, but what many are unaware of is what to do if an emergency occurs. Regardless of an individual’s decision to involve themselves with drugs, alcohol or sexual activity, it is important for everyone’s health and wellness to not only be aware of the consequences but also of how to stay safe in the event of an emergency.


Drugs and Alcohol

Let’s say you are at a party.

For the purposes of this article, the term “party” will be used as a descriptor for a gathering in which underage teenagers and/or adults are explicitly consuming drugs and/or alcohol. At this party, most individuals are intoxicated, possibly even blackout drunk, including yourself, when a party goer slips on the floor, hitting their head while falling, and begins to bleed profusely.

What do you do?

Dr. Bill Watson, Lake County’s Medical Director for Trauma as well as a trauma surgeon at Advocate Condell Medical Center, repeatedly emphasized, “you have to call 911,” in the instance of any emergency. “There is a part of Illinois law where…if you call 911 to have the police and ambulance come, there is protection for you that you may not, depending on the circumstances, get in trouble,” Dr. Watson further explained.

Walter Rodriguez, a detective with the Libertyville Police Department’s Investigative Bureau, confirmed that this law is true and is practiced in Libertyville.

“A lot of times, [this law] deals more with the harder drugs,” he explained, “but you do have [circumstances] where the victim will be protected and the party that called 911 will be protected.”

Detective Rodriguez further noted that it is more common for the police to be called to a party due to noise complaints rather than for medical emergencies.

Individuals participating in illicit activities may hesitate to call 911 for various reasons. Detective Rodriguez explained some of the most common concerns regarding alcohol or drug-related emergencies are “punishment and repercussions. When it comes to underage [drinking], I think [teenagers] are more scared of their parents than anything else.”

However, according to Dr. Watson, the medical consequences are life-threatening if those in the midst of an emergency don’t call 911, as well as more severe than potential punishments.

“[Alcohol poisoning] can decrease your breathing, so you get decreased blood flow to the brain, which can cause stroke-like symptoms. It slows your breathing so much where it can actually make your heart stop,” he explained. “In young people, it is much easier to stop breathing than in adults…and that can cause permanent brain damage.”

It was further noted that alcohol poisoning, or consuming too much alcohol in general, can also cause all organs to build up toxin levels.

Alcohol poisoning is quite common. In fact, Dr. Watson estimated that about 10-15 underaged individuals are sent to emergency rooms in Lake County due to alcohol-related problems each week. The symptoms are not the easiest to spot either, as blacking out from consuming alcohol doesn’t always indicate alcohol poisoning and vice versa.

When it comes to drug usage, Detective Rodriguez emphasized that the opioid epidemic

in the United States is very real and very dangerous. He said that most individuals who contact the police due to drug-related emergencies are involved in heroin overdoses or are looking for help with their addictions.

Detective Rodriguez said that “several law enforcement agencies now carry Narcan,” a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose. “We’re carrying Narcan to try to take that first step and push the antidote into the system and bring [the victim] back,” he further explained.

Yet Dr. Watson highlighted that though underage drinking and drug usage are quite common among today’s youth, the drunk-driving rate is on a decreasing trend.

“Drunk driving is [decreasing]. I think the reason for that is Uber. Young people, especially high school students, are pretty smart these days, so they know drinking and driving is bad,” he noted. “The rate of drunk driving and accidents in young adults is probably [improving] because of [individuals] making some good choices amidst all the bad choices.”

Detective Rodriguez agreed that he has observed the same trend.

If you or a loved one may be struggling with addiction or other concerns regarding illegal activity, Libertyville High School’s social workers work under confidentiality laws, and as Mrs. Emily Eichmeier, the social worker in the G-P LST, explained, these laws allow for students to discuss just about anything going on in their personal lives without the social workers having to report it.

“Drug and alcohol use is actually covered under confidentiality with social workers, so students can talk to us about their own use and we don’t report it to their parents, their teachers or their dean if they are using substances,” she explained.

It is important to note, however, that all social workers are legally required to contact parents, guardians and potentially doctors if they believe a student may be in physical danger.

In regards to drug usage and alcohol consumption, Detective Rodriguez explained that he understands underaged individuals may be curious to try drugs or alcohol, which is why he genuinely emphasized to “be responsible. [Illegal drug and alcohol consumption] is going to happen, whether you’re at your parents house [or a] friend’s house. I’d rather you not do it, but if you’re going to do it, do it responsibly. Make sure that somebody is going to be taking care of you.”


Sexual Assault

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, teenagers 16 to 19 years of age were 3.5 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. Furthermore, sexual assaults occur all across the country, including in Lake County; exact statistics of such assaults are difficult to determine because, as Detective Rodriguez noted, many are unreported.

However, when it comes to reporting sexual assault, there are many different ways to receive help and even medical attention.

“Just like with any issues that go on, [students] can speak with a social worker, they can speak with our police liaison, whether they would like to report something or they just have some general questions about reporting,” Mrs. Eichmeier clarified. “Certainly, us trusted adults in the building that are trained to know how to help those students, they would be the first line of defense.”

Mrs. Eichmeier further noted that, from her understanding, while there are many resources for students to turn to if they are concerned about potential assault or harassment, not many students go to their social worker for help.

Dr. Watson explained that the likeliness that a sexual assault will occur increases when drugs or alcohol are added into the mix. While he was not certain how often sexual assaults occur in Libertyville, he did note that “if an adolescent drinks at least once a month, the risk of being sexually assaulted increases about 12-15 percent.”

And that statistic is much of the reason why victims are afraid to report their assault, as they fear potential consequences for being in a situation involving sex, drugs or alcohol. That is why Dr. Watson seriously emphasized that “a lot of victims blame themselves for putting themselves in that situation. It is not your fault. You need to get help.”

It is important to note that Advocate Condell Medical Center has a 24/7 nurse who is specially trained to help victims of both assault and sexual assault.

Furthermore, Mrs. Eichmeier emphasized that the social workers and student resource officer at LHS prioritize the safety and health of all students.

“We want to create a climate where they are safe places here in school and supportive adults that you can come talk to about these issues,” she concluded.

Both Detective Rodriguez and Dr. Watson commented on the importance of consent and safety if minors or young adults are to partake in sexual activities.

“Make sure [sex] is something you are not being pressured into or forced into,” Dr. Watson stressed. “Everybody is different; everybody matures at a different rate.”