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Dying for a Drink: Alaska Native youth hit hard by alcohol

KTUU-TV ran a series on a growing problem among Alaska Natives: their youth are going to jail and dying in greater numbers than their counterparts.

The problem is linked to alcohol abuse. Native youth are exposed to alcohol at a young age and many of them end up in trouble with the law.

"It's almost as if it's a kind of rite of passage; that somehow it's accepted. And that's disturbing because the statistics demonstrate that if kids start consuming alcohol before the age of 15, 50 percent of them will develop either an alcohol or substance abuse addiction problem," Denise Morris, the director of the Alaska Native Justice Center, told KTUU.

Drinking often turns deadly for the youth. Randy Beaver was found dead in dead from hypothermia with alcohol in his system. He was only 14.

Keane Guest starting drinking when he was 13 and the despair caused him to contemplate suicide. "I grew up seeing alcohol in the family," Guest, now 19, says.

According to the 2009 Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16.9 percent of students had their first drink of alcohol before age 13.

Get the Story:
Children Dying for a Drink: Finding their identity (KTUU-TV 5/6)
Children Dying for a Drink: Bethel teens spread message of healthy choices (KTUU-TV 5/5)
Children Dying for a Drink: A young start with links to suicide (KTUU-TV 5/4)
Children Dying for a Drink: Getting caught (KTUU-TV 5/3)

Related Stories:
Editorial: A vote on alcohol impacts Alaska Native villages (5/4)